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Home burials now attract fee in Kingston, St Andrew

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 03, 2014    

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WITH as many as 20 applications for home burials each month, the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation has joined the island's other parish councils in charging an administrative fee for the granting of permission to people who wish to bury their loved ones at home or at a family plot.

As of Friday, August 1, the KSAC requires an administrative fee of $6,500 to access this service.

Chief revenue officer at the KSAC, Izualo Campbell told the Jamaica Observer that charging a fee to be granted permission for home burials is a first for the local government entity.

"It is unprecedented for this administration to implement the home burial fees at the KSAC," Campbell said. "All other parish councils already have it in place, and it's a step in the right direction for us, because the administrative fees were getting a little high for us.

"And you know, in these harsh economic times, we have to ensure that we do cost recovery as minimal as possible," the chief revenue officer continued. "So this was the reason why we had to sit down and affix the fees to these things."

He told the Sunday Observer that there were no other fees associated with applications for home burials, so essentially it was previously being done at no cost to applicants.

However, when compared to the price being charged by other parish councils, Campbell told this newspaper that the new fee implemented by the body is higher than that charged by other councils.

"On my records, it was higher than everybody else's," Campbell said, adding that, based on his records, the fee in St Thomas is $6,000.

A process that could take anywhere between three and five days for approval, Campbell said once the applicant has written to the town clerk, he/she would subsequently write to the mayor indicating that a request has been made for approval of a home burial to be granted. Campbell said the application would be looked at within three working days before it is sent to the superintendent of cemeteries, with the accompanying documentation.

The documentation would be proof that the applicant owns the land or a letter from a justice of the peace within the community stating that the applicant is a part of the family and, by extension, part of the owned land and therefore has permission.

If all is in order, the superintendent of cemeteries will then visit the location with a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and a representative from the public health department.

This visit would be to ensure that all the regulations are adhered to. These regulations include the specification that there can be no burial site near any water, stream, underground water supply, or any manhole; as well as the proximity of the burial site to the neighbour's house, to the home on the property, and to the kitchen.

"We will not grant any approvals for anybody to do any burial once they are near these things, because (of the possible) contamination of water. Hence we cannot allow individuals to bury near things that can have a wider implication on society and, by extension, the community," Campbell explained.

According to the chief revenue officer, it is harder to get the go-ahead for a backyard burial than laying a loved one to rest in a public cemetery because of the approval process. But, if people perform home burials without being granted permission or without notifying the KSAC, they will be penalised.

"We are going to ask for the exhumation of the body," Campbell said.

He was quick to point out that he has no record of any such case; however, he admitted that there was the possibility that home burials could be conducted without the knowledge of the council.

"Not saying it has not happened, but I have never heard of any since I have been here," Campbell insisted.

Unless a concerned neighbour brings it to the attention of the police or the KSAC, there is very little that can be done in such a case.

"What we have in place is that, once we are aware, we tend to do a lot more public education to ensure that the necessary [things are] done," said Campbell. "Once they meet the specifications, all home burials are granted."

For older backyard graves, Campbell told the Sunday Observer that once the KSAC is brought into the loop, these families are contacted and the necessary checks are done to ensure that what was done before was in fact done properly.

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