As a result of much higher costs than normal due to new regulations imposed upon cemeteries by provincial regulations, the Shaarey Zedek board has informed members and others who had Perpetual Care agreements with the synagogue that flowers will not be planted by the synagogue this year at the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery.
In an email that was sent in May to Shaarey Zedek members, along with individuals who had entered into Perpetual Care Agreements with the Shaarey Zedek in previous years, the synagogue’s board explained its decision not to plant flowers on graves this year.
It was noted that The Perpetual Care Agreement does include the planting of flowers, but the email explained that there would be a need to hire an additional 14 temporary workers to plant flowers if the synagogue were to adhere to provincial regulations on social distancing. The email reviewed the normal requirements pertaining to the maintenance of the cemetery and what the typical annual costs of maintaining the cemetery are:
• “The Perpetual Care shall include the planting of flowers, cutting of grass, changing the soil and sod, renovating of concrete (if same surrounds the plot), as determined necessary by the Cemetery Committee in its sole discretion.”
• The cost to purchase flowers to meet our current needs is approximately $33,000.
• The cost of labour to plant the flowers is over $215,000 (based on 2019 expense).
• The cost (Maintenance & Administration only) to operate our cemeteries in 2019 was $773,000 (This does not include funerals)
• As we had not yet committed to the purchase of flowers this year, the question of availability is a potential factor.
The email raised the issue of the extraordinary increase in costs as a result of what would have been having to hire 14 additional employees this summer:
• Can we hire an additional temporary 14 employees as flower planters only, in addition to the already hired seasonal employees (grass cutters, maintenance, etc.) and stay within government guidelines as to maximum numbers allowed in close proximity in our workshop (current guidelines are 10 people)?
• Our Perpetual Care Fund allows for the Cemetery to draw only the Interest generated annually to offset Perpetual Care expense. This year’s revenue is projected to be approximately $245,000.
The email went on to note that all the other usual operations of the cemetery will be maintained:
As the Cemetery operations are now a part of the overall Synagogue operations, determination of revenues and expenses based on current conditions are a significant consideration.
As one can see there were many points to consider. After a lengthy discussion and in consideration of the unique situation this year due to the Coronavirus, the Cemetery Committee agreed unanimously to suspend the purchase and planting of flowers for this year. However, the Cemetery Committee wanted to ensure that except for the flower planting for this year, the remainder of our obligations related to Perpetual Care be maintained. This includes grass cutting, replacing soil and sod, and renovations and repairs of concrete strips and borders, as well as other ongoing maintenance of the Cemetery to include, tree trimming, fence and road repairs, and general maintenance of all equipment and property related to the cemetery.
In addition, the Cemetery Committee agreed that any friends or families of those buried at our cemeteries be permitted to plant and maintain their own flowers, if they wish to do so. This recommendation was forwarded to the Board of Directors.
In a subsequent email the synagogue outlined steps individuals wishing to plant flowers on their own would need to take:
• You will need to bring your own gardening tools including a watering can to the cemetery.
• Water is available from the Cemetery Maintenance Building on Armstrong from Monday to Friday between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
• Water taps within the cemetery grounds will be turned on by the City of Winnipeg, the afternoon of Tuesday, June 9th. Faucets are located along most sidewalks. The water is turned on Monday to Friday between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, excluding Canadian holidays and non-working Jewish holidays. If you come to the cemetery outside of these hours, please bring your own water.
• Cemetery staff will not be doing specific watering at individual grave sites. Cemetery staff will not be maintaining individually planted flowers, including weeding or the removal of dead flowers during the summer. To ensure the best possible result, we ask that you please check on the flowers you have planted, on a regular basis.
If you need to discard any leftover plastic containers, soil, or plants, a garbage bin is located in the northwest corner of the cemetery property.