TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Ryan Moody with the City of Brandon fills in a hole, created after a tree fell during July’s storm, at the Brandon Municipal Cemetery on Thursday.
Expansion of the Brandon Municipal Cemetery is slow moving despite a six-year-old report warning it would reach capacity in 2012.
The City of Brandon purchased land adjacent to the cemetery in May of this year with the intention of expanding the cemetery, nearly 14 years after land negotiations started.
The land, located at 1200 Aberdeen Ave., was formerly owned by energy corporation ConocoPhillips Co. and purchased for $1 this year after drawn-out talks with the seller.
In 2006, the city walked away from negotiations to purchase the former site of the oil refinery because it didn’t want to assume liability for the contaminated property that could at some point be impacted by leaching contaminants.
Throughout much of the process, there was an unwillingness on either side to assume whatever liability exists due to the contamination.
Despite the city’s trepidation to take over the land eight years ago, current general manager of development services Ted Snure said there are no environmental concerns with the land and said the oil company tested the land sometime in the 1990s.
"What was found was that there was some contaminated groundwater, but the investigations have shown that it hasn’t gotten any worse, it hasn’t advanced any further," Snure said.
With environmental liability concerns quelled, the hold up now is figuring out drainage on the land. Right now, the city is putting together a proposal to send out to consulting firms to make recommendations on what the city’s next steps should be.
"We need to incorporate that land drainage need with the cemetery needs," Snure said. "We’re in the process of developing a proposal ... and we’ll proceed from there, probably next year."
Patrick Pulak, the city’s director of engineering and water resources, said as long as the localized contaminated land isn’t disrupted, there shouldn’t be an issue to create new burials and create an overland drainage plan.
"Some of the land isn’t suitable for the expansion of the cemetery, so really there’s two uses we see for it," Pulak said. "If some of the land can’t be used by the cemetery, the other part will be for land drainage.
"I think it’ll be an overall extension of our drainage plan."
He said there’s no rush to get the drainage plan done and the cemetery expansion will likely be the first step in developing the land.
According to a 2008 cemetery report, the No. 1 recommendation put forward was to acquire additional land for cemetery expansion by the end of 2009.
"The Brandon Municipal Cemetery is rapidly reaching its capacity," the report noted, "and in order to not cause a service break, land needs to be acquired so that the planning and development can take place ahead of the need."
However, since the report, the cemetery has installed columbariums to alleviate the need while addressing the increased popularity of cremation, which does answer some of the documents other recommendations relating to plot space.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 2, 2014