By February, the Town of Clayton will have either freed up a fair number of cemetery plots or been made whole by its dearly not-yet-departed debtors.
The town is seeking $50,000 in unpaid plot contracts, some with balances dating back more than a decade. Earlier this year, the town’s billing department ended a five-year project identifying plots with outstanding balances, sending letters to those who took out the contracts and settling up with a few people. Late last month, the town was still seeking money on 81 plots in Maplewood and Forest Hills cemeteries. Clayton’s historic city cemetery downtown is full.
Clayton, which sells plots for $1,000 each, had a policy allowing citizens to purchase multiple plots and pay them off a year at a time. Most people bought two or three, but some bought as many as a dozen.
The town looks to move to a new policy that would allow residents to still buy more than one plot while requiring all debts to be paid within a year of purchase, no matter the number of plots bought.
“We definitely allow people to buy multiple plots, like they have been doing, but pay for one plot up front, and for each additional plot, they have until June 30 of the following year,” said customer-service director Ann Game. “If we see anything, we see that they stretch these out over many, many years, and we’re just not getting the payments.”
Game said the town will send certified letters to those who didn’t respond to the first letter. If the town hasn’t heard back by Feb. 1 of next year, it plans to void any outstanding contracts and keep any payments that had been made.
Some council members objected to the town keeping payments on voided contracts, particularly in cases where individuals might have had a plot in Clayton but have since been buried elsewhere. Still, the council made no changes to the policy and placed it on its November consent agenda.
Over the past few months, as Clayton’s festival and event roster has continued to grow, the town has drafted a special-events policy, adding fees and setting yearly caps on the number of certain types of events. The latest draft, which cuts some fees for out-of-town residents, appears destined for approval next month.
The biggest change in this draft is the town bringing down sanitation deposits for out-of-town residents to equal those of Clayton residents, meaning a cut from $500 to $250 for the largest events. All other fees are doubled for those who don’t live in town and pay Clayton taxes.
“We fully expected this to be somewhat of a living document initially that will be updated periodically, perhaps even annually as we implement it and try it out and see how it works for the town,” said planning director David DeYoung.
Events thrown or sponsored by the town won’t incur any fees, meaning the policy won’t apply to some of Clayton’s largest events, including Harvest Fest and the Christmas Village. For now, the policy would mostly affect the new Mondo Roots Cultural Arts Festival, the Shingdig and the numerous foot races held in town.
“We brought the special-events policy forward for a number of reasons,” DeYoung said, “mostly to bring some consistency and uniformity to the process, quantify the amount and make better use of the town’s resources. We know we spend a lot of time and energy setting up for these special events, but we’ve never really quantified the costs of doing it.”
The town has said the proposed fees have little to do with the actual costs of services, such as police detail, utilities and park rentals. Rather, the fees are meant to force organizers to put some skin in the game.
The policy also has limits on the number of each type of event held. The largest events expect more than 5,000 people, and the town wants no more than six each year. In the other classifications, the town would allow 10 events drawing 500 to 5,000, 25 events drawing fewer than 500 people and no more than 12 road races per year. DeYoung said organizers could petition the town council to exceed the caps in each category, but according to the policy, those events would incur all town costs, which could be several thousand dollars.
Drew Jackson; 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson