Supervisors asked to raise fee paid for pauper burials

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2002

[02/05/02]Information on the number of pauper burials must be in hand before members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors will discuss the possibility of raising the fee they authorize, board members decided.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon suggested in January that the fee be doubled to $500. At the time, he said he wanted to be fair to funeral homes and they couldn’t perform a burial for $250. The matter was voted down.

At Monday’s meeting, Wanda Shay Clark Odom of Williams Funeral Service read a letter from Matthew Williams, owner. In essence, Williams opted out, saying he would not sign the affidavit the county requires before it will pay the fee.

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Selmon told the board Williams’ letter was in response to his request. He also said he had letters from Fisher-Riles Funeral Home and from W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home.

Fisher-Riles said it would continue to bury paupers for $250, and Jefferson said its cost of a minimum service is $1,200.

Selmon then made a motion for the increase.

“Why should we increase it when we have a funeral home saying it will do it for $250?” asked District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale Jr.

Noting there was a deceased person at a local funeral home recently whose family could not afford his funeral, District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield said, “I can’t understand how you can have a decent funeral for $250.”

“The law dates to the 1800s and deals only with burial,” said Rick Polk, county administrator.

“We’ve got to follow the law,” said Richard George, board president and supervisor for District 5, “unless we want to start paying ourselves.”

Although the board voted 3-2 to defeat the measure, members said they would gather information on the number of pauper burials and revisit the topic.

The law authorizes supervisors to pay public funds to an undertaker for burial, usually in a free lot, of transients or unknowns. More recently, some have viewed the statute as a public supplement for the poor confronted with funeral costs. The fees vary among counties.

In other matters, the board:

Heard a request for a tax exemption from Jimmy Heidel, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, for an expansion Tyson Foods has announced. Heidel said the chicken-cooking plant at Flowers will spend more than $5.1 million expanding, add jobs and increase payroll more than $386,000.

Declared three low-band radios from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department surplus and allowed Sheriff Martin Pace to use them for trade on an 800 mHz trunking radio.

Accepted a check from Tax Collector Pat Simrall for $1,499. She told the board the check represented checks written to taxpayers for overpayments between Oct. 15, 1999, to Jan. 11, 2001, but not cashed.

Added three roads off Kirkland Road and Airline Drive to the Fall 2001 Resurfacing Project.

Approved hiring a consultant to help write specifications for the boat for the Kings Point Ferry.

Approved payments of $283,518.87 from Community Development Block Grant funds and two payments totaling $10,400 from county funds for a road improvement project at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex pending approval by the Warren County Port Commission.

Approved the purchase of a one-ton truck from Roger Usury Chevrolet on state contract and the emergency purchase of a 90-horsepower engine for the Kings Point Ferry.

Adjourned until 9 a.m. Feb. 19.