Indigent burials strain Ga. county
by Associated Press Wire
September 19, 2012 12:00 AM | 517 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BRUNSWICK — In the 57 years Arlie McNeill has been in the funeral business, little has changed in the way indigent burials are handled in Glynn County. And that’s becoming a problem.

Indigent burials are conducted by local funeral homes on a rotation basis. The businesses bear most of the expense when family members cannot be located or they are unable or unwilling to pay for funeral arrangements.

Funeral homes are paid $250 by the city of Brunswick for the service, which is the same compensation provided when McNeill, director of Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home, got into the business nearly six decades ago.

The city of Brunswick continues to provide burial plots in its three public cemeteries for indigent persons — including those from outside city limits — with no compensation from the county, despite repeated requests over the years to the county for help.

McNeill says funeral homes aren’t legally obligated to provide the service. “They do it out of the goodness of their heart,” he said. “Nobody else is going to do it.”

Funeral homes also bear the responsibility of spending three to five days trying to find relatives before they are allowed to hold an indigent burial.

Now, the three cemeteries in Brunswick are filling up, and McNeill says he doesn’t want to wait until there are no more burial plots before elected officials address the issue.

“That space has run out,” he said. “What’s going to happen in the future?”

McNeill says he has asked the Glynn County Commission at least three times to build a public cemetery in the unincorporated area of the county, though he has not raised the issue with any current elected officials. The only cemeteries in the unincorporated area of the county, where the majority of residents live, are privately owned.

A timber company offered to donate a 50-acre tract for a cemetery outside the city limits a few years ago, but McNeill said county commissioners rejected the offer.

“The county has always blown us off,” he said. “The (commissioners) in the past have never helped us. The county should help a little.”

Glynn County Commission Chairman Richard Strickland says he was unaware of the issue until contacted by The News Thursday.

“Nobody has ever approached me,” he said. “If somebody would bring us all the background, I’m sure the county would consider it.”

Strickland suggested McNeill make a presentation at one of the commission’s monthly non-voting workshop meetings.

Upkeep is also a concern at the city’s cemeteries, where McNeill says grass is sometimes nearly waist high. He often has to ask the city to mow in areas before funeral services are held. Helping with maintenance is another way the county could help, he said.

“If the county would assist a little bit, it would help,” he said. “We all pay taxes. The county should help a little bit.”

McNeill says he realizes the city is struggling financially, but he says an increase in the compensation to funeral homes is long overdue. Glynn County funeral homes receive among the lowest compensation for indigent burials in the region, McNeill said.
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