HOPE — Locating old burial sites with modern radar technology could cost taxpayers in Hope close to $10,000.

The quote requested by town sexton Beth Gindel from Topographix of Hudson N.H. will trigger one of three decisions by the select board, possibly as early as its Tuesday, Jan. 10 meeting.

The board can accept the entire quote and work the expense into the next fiscal year budget or put the matter to a vote at a town meeting, according to town administrator Samantha Mark. In either case, work would not begin until May.

A third option would be to decline to undertake the cemetery project.

“They just have to decide,” Mank said of the board.

The matter is important because the site in question, Morey Hill Cemetery, has been closed to new burials for about three years, ever since Gindel discovered that a 2013 interment was very near or on an old burial site whose existence had vanished from view. It was the graveyard’s last burial and Hope continues to lose the revenues they generate for cemetery upkeep.

Lots at Morey Hill cost $450. Of that, 30 percent goes into the Perpetual Care Fund as required by state law and the rest into the general maintenance fund, according to Gindel.

Since taking over the position in 2019, Gindel’s prodding of the earth in the nearly 200-year-old cemetery has turned up more than 30 old and long-unmarked grave sites. She believes many more might be hidden from site due to the effects of poor past maintenance, vandals and decay.

In September, Gindel sought and received select board approval to explore the use of Ground Penetrating Radar to identify unmarked graves, and later received the go-ahead to seek a bid from the New Hampshire GPR firm, the closest to Hope.

 

Sexton Beth Gindel believes Ground Penetrating Radar will answer a lot of questions. Photo by Jack M. Foley

Results could push things in two different directions, however, she said. “Having the GPR done in the cemetery will allow us to see if there is a potential to open the cemetery back up for new burials, but we may find out that there is no more space available,” she said. “The revenue generated by sales of lots is minimal to say the least.” Indeed, since the cemetery was closed to burials, Gindel has had only one inquiry about a lot purchase.

As for the quote, it includes an option for a possibly lower cost. “Given the travel time and location from our base in Hudson NH and your cemetery location in Hope ME, it might be more cost-effective to hire a local company to perform field mapping and drafting services,” Topographix owner Robert W. Perry wrote in the quote letter.

He was referring to the three types of work needed to do the job and that are separately listed in his quote: ground penetrating radar at $4,645; robotic field mapping at $1,945 and drafting services at $3,159. The total bid for all three is $9,740 if Topographix does all the work.