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March 24. 2014 9:49PM

Cemetery, ball field balance elusive in Amherst

AMHERST — As the deadline to convert recreational land into cemetery use looms, town officials are taking the next steps to consider alternatives and better understand their options.

There are about 17 recreation fields in Amherst, although none of them are owned by the town. Three of those fields, known as Cemetery Fields, will soon be shut down as the cemetery trustees take ownership of the property, leaving just 14 ball fields to service thousands of games, practices and tournaments each year.

“The land will return to cemetery use on Sept. 1, 2014,” says a letter from Terry Knowles, assistant director of the Charitable Trusts Unit of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

In an effort to address some of the town’s recreational needs once the conversion takes place, the board of selectmen introduced a warrant article requesting that $180,000 be spent to purchase a portion of the nearly 48-acre parcel that includes Cemetery Fields on Merrimack Road along Route 101.

Although this request was supported by selectmen and the ways and means committee, voters rejected the request earlier this month with a vote of 1,218 residents in support and 1,462 residents in opposition.In response, town officials are now planning to create a cemetery maintenance finance committee to address ongoing concerns about the need for cemetery land and recreational space.
“The seven-person committee will include a representative from the Board of Selectmen, Cemetery Trustees and Trustees of the Trust Funds, the Amherst Finance Director and three Amherst citizens appointed by the selectmen,” says a news release issued by the board of selectmen. “The BOS hopes to have the committee launched in April with the intent of having the committee present its recommendations before summer.”

The committee will help to update the methods and processes by which cemetery maintenance is funded and supported throughout the town. The group will also be charged with studying regulations, processes and financial reconciliation, according to the release.

More specifically, the committee will gain clarity on legal requirements for management and disbursement of related trusts and the processes related to the sale of plots, burial expense tracking and reimbursement. It will also identify situations where monies have not been billed, paid or deposited into proper accounts, and how to reconcile those instances.Anyone interested in serving on the committee is asked to contact Town Administrator Jim O’Mara at no later than April 11. Appointments will be made by selectmen on April 14.

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