Dying is likely about to get pricier in Kamloops.
The city is looking to increase cemetery rates for some services next year by as much as 25 per cent as it also seeks to expand Hillside Cemetery, which is nearing capacity.
According to the city, an audit determined its rates to be much lower than other communities. In Kamloops, it costs $3,500 to bury an adult in a full casket, compared to $5,350 in Kelowna and $20,300 in Victoria.
Proposed changes include increasing the cost of burials, cremations, columbarium and mausoleum by 25 per cent in 2021, with annual 2.5 per cent increases to follow until 2030. It is also proposing a five per cent increase on all other services, starting in 2021, and annual 2.5 per cent increases on them through 2030.
On Monday, the civic operations committee heard that in addition to city fees being lower than many other communities, the rates would cover the cost of offering such services, due to land prices and the cost to dig winter graves, which requires jackhammers and significant time to break into frozen ground.
Committee member Coun. Dale Bass, however, questioned whether it costs the city $1,300 to inter a cremated adult in Kamloops and asked staff to justify added costs.
City parks planning supervisor Mike Doll said part of the cost is linked to the price of land. The city’s mausoleum is fully subscribed and staff are working on a cemetery master plan, which is in the draft stage.
The city anticipates that, without changes, it has space for about 500 more burial plots at the Notre Dame Drive cemetery in Southgate and is looking to potentially expand to the west.
A draft plan shows such an expansion would be sufficient for 30 years.
“When you’ve got a limited amount of land, real estate is valuable, right?” Doll said.
“When you think about buying a plot, think about buying a piece of real estate. For example, in Vancouver, you’re paying thousands and thousands of dollars — 25, 30 grand for a plot. If you look at the entire province, we’re actually affordable, I guess you can say.”
The city stressed it is not looking to make money off of proposed cemetery rate increases, but rather recover costs.
Committee chair Coun. Dieter Dudy recently lost his wife of many years. He said it is an ugly topic to approach, but noted dying is expensive.
“Even though we are trying to keep it as affordable as we can for people, it is still expensive,” he said.
Other proposed changes in the cemetery bylaw include restricting transfer of a right of interment to immediate family members only, expanding conditions to disperse cremated remains and increasing minimum and maximum fines for bylaw offences.
The committee voted unanimously to send the proposed bylaw changes to council for discussion and decision.
Additional planning may also include infill of the Pleasant Street Cemetery in Sagebrush (South Kamloops).