Monday, November 23, 2015

Seekonk Problem is a Grave One

GOUVEIA: A grave problem in Seekonk

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Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2015 11:02 pm | Updated: 11:33 pm, Sun Nov 22, 2015.
Just when it looked like the controversies surrounding Seekonk's government were beginning to die down, a new one has arisen.
While it still may be true that the only two certain things in this world are death and taxes, in Seekonk even death remains a bit uncertain if you plan to be interred in the Good Earth.
The town has a cemetery on Newman Avenue, but it seems folks are just dying to get in there. Fewer than 10 graves remain available at the site, according to Selectmen Chairman Dave Parker.
"We are going to be out (of graves) within three months," Parker said recently.
It is widely assumed he comes to that conclusion using the law of averages, and not from any particular inside information.
Apparently, the town has been aware of the situation for some time now, but has dug itself a hole by not doing anything about it. Selectman David Viera expressed his disappointment at the death-march pace of the cemetery search, claiming, "We are chasing our own tail."
One piece of land looked at for burial purposes is located near Pleasant Street. While that certainly sounds like a wonderful name for a final destination, there are problems preventing its use.
The level of groundwater has been discovered to be high. That might mean the grass would be very green for those visiting, but the permanent inhabitants would probably not find the setting acceptable. Not that they would complain, mind you.
When Selectman David Andrade suggested the board find out what state and health regulations require as to groundwater levels, Parker said that should have been done months ago. Clearly there was not enough planning for this final decision done by town officials.
It's always stressful when you don't take care of these arrangements ahead of time.
Another proposed spot for locating those leaving this world is Town Hall, or more accurately, land adjacent to it. Honestly - you can't make this stuff up.
While some believe ideas have been going to Town Hall to die for decades, it is unlikely they will be joined by those Seekonk citizens passing on to their reward in the future. It might continue to be a political graveyard for some, but probably not an eternal resting place.
Like the Pleasant Street site, the Town Hall parcel apparently has high levels of groundwater. High levels of a certain other substance are rumored to have been discovered there also, but that's a different problem for a different day.
Most Seekonk residents would probably be OK with the idea of going to Newman Avenue for the after-life. They could most likely also come to terms with making Pleasant Street their home after meeting with mortality.
But telling them they have to spend eternity at Town Hall would certainly fall into the category of cruel and unusual punishment. Although, come to think of it, there is probably a vault there already.
There is discussion planned with Holy Cross Church, located in Rhode Island, concerning land adjacent to a cemetery they own on Dexter Avenue. As it always is, the keys to real estate are location, location, location.
Contrary to some public opinion, there seems to be no plot here concocted by officials to deny residents a final spot within the town's borders. It's not unfair for citizens to expect their town officials to provide a place where the dearly departed can repose in respectful dignity, however.
But cryptic remarks aside, this is a serious matter. No one wants Seekonk to stand as a monument to poor planning or have loved ones forced to shop around like they are buying a condo during such a painful time in their lives.
Seekonk officials need to get their act together and bury this controversy quickly. A lack of affordable housing is one thing, and having to cut town services yet another. But this, for many, would be the final nail in the coffin.
Voters can be very sensitive to situations such as this. Let's hope town officials come up with a sensible solution to this problem very soon. And if they don't?
Well - it's their funeral.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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