Friday, August 31, 2001

Cremation defeat to cost Hamilton

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — City Council's rejection of a cremation ordinance means the city might pay twice as much to bury its indigents.

        But some City Council members say the additional cost is worth it to avoid an action some consider unfair, and to avoid offending people who object to cremation.

        To save money and cemetery space, City Council considered an ordinance requiring that indigents be cremated instead of buried.

        A cremation would cost the city about $600, while a burial costs about $1,500.

        Council rejected the cremation ordinance Wednesday by a 4-3 vote.

        Council members who vot ed against the ordinance said it was unfair to indigents, and they said they feared lawsuits from relatives of indigents who might surface after the cremations occurred.

        “This is just another way our low-income people are being treated as second-class citizens,” Councilwoman Katherine Becker said at the council meeting.

        She and Councilmen George McNally, Donald Ryan and Archie Johnson voted against the ordinance, while Mayor Adolf Olivas, Vice Mayor Thomas Nye and Councilwoman Sharon Hughes voted for it.

        “I don't consider cremation to be a disrespectful means of disposal,” Mr. Olivas said.

        If City Council had ap proved the ordinance, the city would have been the first community in the Tristate and one of a few in Ohio to have law requiring indigents to be cremated.

        Hamilton considered this ordinance because on July 1, Ohio stopped reimbursing counties for the burial of indigents who qualified for public assistance.

        As a result of the state's action, Hamilton officials said they expected the city to have to pay for as many as 40 indigent burials a year. The city has been paying for about 12.

        City Manager Steve Sorrell says the city will run out of cemetery space for indigents soon.


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