Concerns over Dubuque County burials - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Concerns over Dubuque County burials

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Some people are questioning the practices of one Dubuque cemetery when it comes to burials.

A county burial, also called an indigent burial, happens when somebody dies and has no money to pay for services. Every county in the state allots taxpayer dollars annually to cover these costs.

There's an agreement in Dubuque County that dates back to 1999, where, for indigent burials, the county pays funeral homes up to $2,730 and cemeteries up to $600.

Officials at Linwood Cemetery say that money doesn't include graveside services, but some others disagree with them.

At Linwood Cemetery in Dubuque, people the county determines to be indigent -- the poorest of the poor -- can be laid to rest for $600, but that's all they get.

Ken Miller is president of the Linwood Cemetery Association.

"The $600 covers the plot and the opening and closing of the grave, and it also includes the cost to provide a foundation for the marker," Miller said. "It doesn't provide a marker. It doesn't provide any other services."

Charlie Brimeyer is executive director of Dubuque County Veterans Affairs Commission and helps the county coordinate burials for indigent veterans.

"It is respect and dignity," he said Thursday in his office. "That's that simple."

Brimeyer said other cemeteries provide graveside services at no additional cost.

"I would like to see the supervisors and the cemetery association work this out that we can do what is a dignity. We can allow the families to be there," he said.

Wayne Demmer is the chair of the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors.

"Nobody's pointing fingers here right now," Demmer said. "We just need to sit down with it and get an understanding of where they're at, and the county can show them where our contract and what the understanding is and try to resolve it."

Linwood cemetery said families can have graveside services for an additional cost, but the county forbids what it calls an "upgrade" to an indigent burial.

"It's considered an enhancement," Brimeyer said. "You're upgrading the funeral from what it was to something special that we can't afford."

He called Linwood's current practice a "drop policy" when it comes to leaving bodies with the cemetery for burial without a graveside service for family members.

However, Miller said, "We've always charged for those services. Nothing's really changed."

The Dubuque County supervisors this week have invited the Linwood Cemetery Association to a work session Monday at 3:30 p.m. to clarify policies.

Miller said the Linwood board will discuss these recent concerns at their next meeting, April 16.

Dubuque County supervisors allotted nearly $98,661 this fiscal year to pay for all the indigent burials. So far this fiscal year, taxpayer dollars have paid for 30 burials, each costing up to $3,300. Some cost less, however, if the person is cremated or they have some a little money to help offset costs.

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