published Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Hamilton County asks for permission to cremate remains of indigents

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry
    Grave markers rest on the grounds at Ruth Cofer Cemetery where indigent burials for Hamilton County are preformed. Hamilton County and Whitfield County have seen an increase in pauper burials which sometimes cost the taxpayers $1,000 each.

INDIGENT BURIALS IN HAMILTON COUNTY

The number of indigent burials in the county has steadily climbed over the last 3 years.

• 2009 — 62

• 2010 — 71

• 2011— 80

• 2012 (to date) — 85

Source: Hamilton County

Space at the Hamilton County-owned land cemetery for burying the bodies of unclaimed and indigent people is quickly running out, prompting county officials to request state leaders to modify state law to allow them to cremate the remains of indigents.

The request was the first brought before the county’s legislative delegation at a breakfast this morning during which several county leaders presented items they hope state lawmakers will address in the upcoming legislative session.

Since 1933, Hamilton County’s indigent residents — those who die without enough money for burial or cremation services — have been buried at the 42-acre Ruth Cofer Cemetery of Jenkins Road.

This year, 85 people have been buried there. Officials estimate they only have 73 plots left. Cremation would allow them to bury or inter the remains in much smaller spaces, said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.

“We know this is a sensitive issue and we want to treat these deceased with respect. But the simple fact is that we just do not have the space and finding more land for this will be very difficult,” said Coppinger. “Its a solution to an unfortunate problem.”

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