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Neighbors speak out against crematorium

By Christine Simmonds | Jun 17, 2020
Photo by: Christine Simmonds From left Pete Lammert, Michael Hall and Mike Sabatini at the Thomaston Planning Board meeting June 16.

Thomaston — Abutting property owners voiced concerns about the proposed Thomaston crematorium at 32 Anna Belle Lane at the Planning Board meeting June 16. The board approved the crematorium for next steps, and the lease will go before the voters for approval at the Town Meeting.

Neighbors of the location expressed concern about health and safety, increased traffic and decreased property values. Some questioned the process that had led to this point.

The proposed crematorium would be owned and operated by Michael Hall of Hall’s Funeral Home. Hall was present at the meeting to answer questions.

Planning Board alternate Charles Frattini asked Hall to explain how he would ensure the community is safe.

Hall said the cremation unit, known as a retort, is manufactured by B&L Cremation Systems of Largo Florida. This company has 24 systems in Maine currently, which are all approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He said the Phoenix II-I Retort provides a smokeless, odorless process with no visible emissions.

Hall said the units “far exceed any EPA regulations and requirements,” and will undergo “ongoing maintenance and annual checkup” to ensure they continue to function properly.

Abutting property owner John Smith said he was concerned with how close the crematorium would be to his property and how it would affect the value. Smith said the building would be 200 yards from his current house and 50 feet from his property.

Smith said he plans to build a new house on his current foundation and sell the property next door. He said potential buyers would not be interested in living so close to a crematorium. “They’re not going to buy my property for full price,” he said. “Might not even buy it at all.”

Planning Board Chair Joanne Richards said the location on Anna Belle Lane was already voted on and approved for the crematorium by residents.

Nancy Wood, another abutting property owner, said she was worried about increased traffic on Erin Street from both construction and an additional business. “I see how many cars go down that street a day all the time,” Wood said.

Hall said he anticipated “minimal traffic” once the site was operational. “There’s going to be more people going to the town garage and going to the dog park,” he said. He estimated fewer than two or three vehicles a day, and that 95% of the operations would be on weekdays.

Hall also agreed to a written restriction of deliveries to between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Glenn Smith owns two abutting properties to the proposed crematorium site. Smith said he would like to hear from other residences near crematoriums in Maine about how it affected daily living.

Frattini said he had done some research into the topic, and that “the vast majority of people that live around a crematorium don’t even know it’s there.”

Morgan Parmenter, another neighbor to the proposed site, asked Richards if her being on the Village Cemetery Board of Trustees created a conflict of interest in the matter. Parmenter has been a vocal opponent of the crematorium for some time.

Parmenter said Richards has been open about wanting to generate income for the Cemetery Board, “so that seems like a conflict of interest.”

Richards said the Cemetery Board is “absolutely separate” from the Planning Board, and she would only approve the crematorium “based on the merits of the project as a Planning Board member.”

Town attorney Paul Gibbons said the Cemetery Board of Trustees has no control over where the money from the lease would go. Gibbons said those choices are dictated by the Select Board.

Richards said she offered to resign from the Cemetery Board if others felt her participation constituted a conflict of interest regarding the crematorium. She was told it did not, so she remained as a member of the Cemetery Board.

Rod Grindell of the Cemetery Board was also present, and said the discussion of a possible conflict of interest was a “moot point.” Grindell said the crematorium would have passed even if Richards had abstained from voting on the matter due to there being a quorum.

Hall created the business entity Midcoast Crematory Inc. to operate the crematorium and enter into the lease with the town of Thomaston. Hall has also been certified as a Cremation Services Provider by the National Funeral Directors Association.

Halls Funeral Home has been locally owned and operated by Hall and his family for more than 60 years, and has operated in Thomaston since 2004.

Hall said he has been working with Thomaston residents and a variety of officials for more than three years on this project.

Mike Sabatini of Landmark Corporation Surveyors and Engineers in Rockport reviewed the location map and building and development plans for the site. This includes a 1,300 square-foot building, an entrance driveway and parking.

Sabatini described the plans for utilities and landscaping as well.

The lease agreement will be written up by Gibbons. The Town Meeting where residents will vote on the lease is currently planned for August.

Thomaston residents passed the Warrant item approving the lease of 32 Anna Belle Lane for the purpose of a crematorium in 2019.

In other business, the board approved a French food truck proposed by Shirley A. McAfee of Appleton.

The truck will primarily operate off one location on New County Road, though McAffee said one day a week it would operate out of the Salvation Army parking lot.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Jun 19, 2020 13:49

For many, many years, the National Organization of Funeral Directors has been represented by powerful lobbyists in Washington, D.C., consequently, there simply hasn't been stringent oversight. Our current administration has been dismantling all EPA regulations viewed as unfavorable to business, one has to question what standards and regulations the emissions would exceed. This town already has the cement factory which is now burning used carpeting as fuel...have the standards been reduced for their stacks?

 

In the near future, many Baby Boomers will be passing away. For this generation, amalgamate fillings were the norm, these contain mercury. When a body is cremated and  the fillings are incinerated, mercury will be emitted into the air, please study what detrimental effects even a small amount of mercury has for small children.

 

The risks certainly outweigh the gains for the Town of Thomaston, for the nominal rental fee received, it doesn't not meet any threshold for a revenue resource. If my memory serves me correctly, the Town of Thomaston would receive $6,000 a year. Is that enough money to justify the deleterious impact it would have on abutters property values and air quality? The particulate is disbursed into the air, then settles as dust, where it lands no one knows.

 

I can understand why the voters would cast a favorable vote if they don't reside in the proximity of the proposed crematorium, it's out-of-sight, out-of-mind with the advantage of some income coming in. The residents in this neighborhood already have the negative impact of the cement factory stacks, why should their burden increase? The question needs to be asked, would you purchase a residence next door to a crematorium?

 

It would be appropriate for the Town of Thomaston to have an independent environmental assessment done to determine if the crematorium would negatively impact air quality. Relying on the applicant for this information, does not provide a purely objective statement, this represents a conflict of interest. Due diligence is required for this project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Jun 18, 2020 07:36

Mr. Hall,   What are the specific EPA and Maine State Environmental Legislation and Regulations governing air and water and fuel concerns and any and all possible emissions from a Crematorium?  Thank you.

 



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