City sets new burial costs

by Laura Bednar

Jan. 9 city council meeting

With phase II of the Maple Shade Cemetery expansion substantially complete, Independence City Council approved increased prices for burials in the new portion of the cemetery, just south of the Cleveland Cavaliers practice facility driveway.

The older portion of the cemetery has 25 burial sites left, according to Mayor Greg Kurtz. These will be sold on an as-needed basis at the previous rate until the end of 2024. Starting in 2025, remaining sites in the old portion will be sold using the new price structure.

A traditional gravesite now costs $675, compared to $450 previously for rows II through PP and $300 for rows AA through HH in the older cemetery section. A niche in the new columbarium walls, which opened last summer to hold urns of ashes, will cost $600. The opening and closing costs for a grave are $350 for a single adult grave, $500 for a double deep adult grave and $200 for a grave of a child under 6 or for a buried urn. The opening and closing costs for a niche the first time are $300 and $150 to store a second urn in the same space.

The cost for installing or replacing a traditional grave headstone is $100 for a flat headstone and $350 for a raised headstone.

Finance Director Vern Blaze said the city has several purchase orders encumbered for cemetery fencing. Council agreed to discuss it at a public lands and buildings committee meeting.

Tech contract

Independence renewed its contract with Fairsite Technologies for Chief Information Officer services and on-site support for the city’s IT department at $83,055. The contract also includes geographic information system services.

At a November council meeting, a representative from Geo-centric Consulting gave an overview of GIS services for the city, which included mapping city assets, tracking culvert replacements and measuring water runoff in anticipation of future stormwater projects. Geo-centric can also create a map that shows public utility locations, Independence-specific zoning and when repairs were last made to utilities. Another feature is digitally managing Maple Shade Cemetery so residents can search grave locations.

CIO services from Fairsite are $128 per hour, and GIS services are $95 per hour. Gibbs said the city will only be billed for what is actually completed during the contract, which ends in July. Geo-centric is an outside contractor, and Gibbs said he would update council as they work.

Legal representation

Council retained William Doyle as prosecutor for four years through 2027 for $70,000 annually. Doyle has over 40 years of experience in the legal field, according to legislation.

Clerk of Courts Angie Zidanic said Doyle has worked with the city since 2007 and is a sole practitioner. She added that he stays current on new ordinances and is available 24/7 for the police department. “He prosecutes all Independence cases in Garfield Heights Municipal Court and in Mayor’s Court,” she said. “Since 2020, Mayor’s Court case load has increased 81%.”

Council appointed Greg O’Brien to continue as law director and Taft, Stettinius and Hollister to remain as the city’s law department. O’Brien said the contract, which runs through the end of 2027, saw a $10 per hour increase across the board for legal services. The firm receives a monthly $2,000 fee for the law director to attend council meetings and prepare legislation. For other services, the law director or other attorney will be paid $305 per hour, and paralegals will be paid $225 per hour.

The legal firm Mansour Gavin LPA was hired as a special counsel “for legal services to support economic development initiatives offered by the city, as well as other necessary municipal legal services,” according to legislation. The lead attorney will be paid $305 per hour and paralegals $225 per hour for the duration of the contract, which ends Dec. 31, 2025.

Councilperson Kevin Day said having another firm at the city’s disposal was “good business practice” in the event Taft, Stettinius and Hollister has a conflict with a case.

Independence police officer Charles Wilson retired after 35 years. ∞