McLennan County is moving to expand the life of its pauper cemetery by requiring cremation for most people who die poor in the county.
The county-owned Restland Cemetery on South Fourth Street is the final resting ground for people who die in the county with less than $2,000.
Under the county’s policy updated Tuesday, bodies of everyone who meets the requirements for a pauper burial or cremation will be cremated, except unclaimed bodies for which no person entitled to control has been located, unidentified bodies, infants, morbidly obese bodies, and bodies needed for criminal or civil litigation. There is also an exception to cremation if the county health services director is concerned that efforts to contact family have not been sufficient.
The county’s old policy did not require cremation. Along with the new requirement, some exceptions to cremation were added at the request of Lakeshore Funeral Home, which handles the county’s pauper burials and cremations, said Eva Cruz-Hamby, the county’s health services director.
Veterans are buried at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, a policy the county adopted in 2011.
County Judge Scott Felton said the life of the Restland Cemetery will be expanded by decreasing the number of burials, which take more space than cremations.
Cruz-Hamby said there are about 100 burial plots left, though she is unsure of the exact number. Remains from six cremations could fit in the space one burial would take, though the county only puts four in that space, she said.
The county averages 10 cremations a month, she said.
“It’s really gone up,” she said. “I have no idea why it’s increasing.”
A cremation costs the county $763.23, while a burial runs $1,014, she said.
Cruz-Hamby told commissioners the county provides a permanent stone marker with the name of the deceased, year of birth and death for each site. While no other markers are permitted, individuals still put them out. Only two small floral arrangements are allowed, but the rule is difficult if not impossible to enforce, she said.
Added decorations make maintenance more difficult at the cemetery, which has a sign reminding guests not to leave decorations, she said.
“We let them know they can’t do that and if they do we can remove them,” Cruz-Hamby said. “We want to make it look really nice but it’s hard.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners asked Montgomery Construction to hold onto the original Themis statue for at least another week as officials search for a location to store it. County leaders have not decided yet what to do with the 18-foot Greek goddess of divine law.
Montgomery Construction installed a duplicate statute on top of the McLennan County Courthouse Jan. 6. Montgomery Construction general manager Mike Anderson presented commissioners with a “birth certificate” of the statute on Tuesday and said the original is in an 8-foot by 20-foot crate under a shelter in a safe location.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell said he will look for a location to keep the statue safe until the court decides where to display the historical figure.
Anderson said the company would also like to add a time capsule under the new Themis to be opened Jan. 6, 2218. The 16-inch by 6-inch capsule will include pictures, video and other details outlining the statue’s history.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Felton said.
The original Themis was duplicated and replaced because of its age and fragility.