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Fiscal Court looking at some grave issues surrounding pauper burials

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - While other counties are allowing cremations to be done as part of pauper burials, county attorney Monica Meredith Robinson said it isn’t proper.

But that is a matter to consider with the General Assembly.

Bullitt Fiscal Court is just looking for a procedure to help those who have no means for a burial have a proper ceremony. 

The item, which accounted for $11,000 last year in the county’s budget, has resulted in much discussion for court members.

Coroner David Billings said he didn’t understand why other counties are allowing cremations, which is much cheaper than having an actual burial.

For the years he has owned and operated Maraman Billings Funeral Home, the coroner said he made sure that he helped every person possible to have a proper burial.

He felt that having an application process should be done, which is exactly the advice given by the state Department of Local Government.

Pauper burials are for those who have no means to lay a person to rest. Billings said cremation is the most economical way to do this.

In the past, the county has contributed $500 for the pauper burials upon a request from a funeral home. Eleven requests were made last year.

Without the cremation option, Billings said the county can’t really participate. The cost to merely open up a gravesite is $750.

In Jefferson County, there is no option to add services to the pauper burial.

In Bullitt County, that is also the way the statute is to be observed.

However, Morris Proffitt, who is with Hardy-Close Funeral Home, said he was concerned that a $500 payment by the county was used to help pay for an $8,000 funeral.

Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts said the court members would seek a refund of the money.

Billings said the pauper burial is a basic way to provide a final resting place. There is to be no services, visitation or burial.

Magistrate John Bradshaw agreed that the county is not in the business of subsidizing funerals and the request should have been denied.

However, Robinson said without an application process, which discloses assets of the deceased and any family members, it is difficult to know what the $500 checks are paying.

“I think it’s been abused for years,” Billings said of the pauper payments by the county. “There are people who truly have a need. We need to take care of them. It’s our responsibility.”

Magistrate Dan Kelty agreed that the county wants to assist those who are in need.

“We want to help,” said Kelty. “We just don’t want to see that the system isn’t abused.”

In having Robinson prepare an ordinance for the process, Kelty said he would like to set the limit at $500. The question remains whether the county seeks bids from the funeral homes or if the county wants to set up a rotation of interested funeral homes.

Bullitt Fiscal Court will discuss the matter again at the Tuesday, Dec. 6, meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the courthouse. The public is invited to attend.