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

Controversy over Dubuque County burials continues

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

One Dubuque cemetery is under scrutiny for its handling of indigent burials.

Those are burial services for people who absolutely can't afford them. Every county in the state has a system to fund these with taxpayer dollars, though the amount differs in each county.

In Dubuque County, supervisors reimburse funeral homes up to $2,730 and cemeteries up to $600.

When Dubuque County resident Carla Smith's mother died in March, she qualified for an indigent burial.

"My mom didn't have any money and she couldn't afford to pay for to have a funeral and I'm the only one so I needed some assistance," Smith said.

Years ago, Smith's parents bought plots at Linwood Cemetery, but because the county was paying for her mother's burial services, Smith received some bad news.

"I could not have a procession to Linwood and I could not have a graveside burial like I wanted," she said.

The Linwood Cemetery Association's board said compensation from the county doesn't cover these added expenses. All Smith could do was have the funeral home leave her mother's body at the cemetery for burial later.

"Well he said, 'Drop off the body.' I say, 'dump off the body' because that's the way it was," Smith said. "Can't believe that they did something like that. You know, it's upsetting all the time."

Concerns over Linwood's handling of indigent burials led to a work session Monday afternoon between county supervisors and Linwood representatives.

Supervisors said Linwood is the only area cemetery that doesn't include a graveside service or use of its chapel in that $600 reimbursement.

"Everybody else is doing it, but Linwood's saying it's not in their contract so they don't have to do it and we would like to see them come over to our side on that and provide those services," Dubuque County supervisor Daryl Klein said.

"We really think that we're providing what was requested of us," Linwood's board president Ken Miller said. "Linwood takes our fiscal responsibilities extremely seriously."

Miller has said Linwood's understanding is 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...It doesn't provide a marker. It doesn't provide any other services."

At full price, he said, a grave site costs between $800 and $4,000 dollars. Opening and closing the grave costs $900. The county's $600 reimbursement, therefore, doesn't go very far, and it's not necessarily the cemetery's responsibility to absorb all that cost.

"The bottom line is, nothing is for free and there's a cost involved and I think we just have to deal with an emotional issue and to find out then, to be financially sound and to find out how to compromise on those issues."

Linwood sees a handful of indigent burials in any given year.

Meanwhile, Smith said she hopes other families don't have to go through what she did, "because it was very painful and very hurtful and you're just at wit's end because there's nothing you can do."

Concerns also include a lack of graveside military rites at Linwood for burials of indigent veterans.

Linwood's board members meet later this month and will review their options and policies regarding indigent burials.

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