Township OKs computerizing cemetery records

FLINT TWP. — The township board took the first step toward organizing its cemetery records with a 6-1 approval of a proposal to computerize burial records for township cemeteries.

The upgrade specifically applies to Cronk Cemetery on Beecher Road and Bristol Cemetery on Bristol Road near Bishop Airport, said Clerk Kathy Funk. Databases for both cemeteries are inadequate, she said.

The change will make it easier for family members to locate deceased relatives at the cemeteries and also for the living to find a final resting place after death.

This is the first of three steps toward upgrading cemetery records. The next step would be GIS global imaging that would pinpoint grave site images right down to the plot level. The third phase would be making searchable records available online for residents or anyone else to use, Funk said.

Funk recommended that the township board start by purchasing the software to create a workable database. That process alone could take six months or more, she said.

Citing costs, Trustee Barb Vert voted against the proposal.

“I do understand the importance of mapping but again we just keep spending and spending,” she said of the board’s ongoing expenditures. Vert argued that upgrading the cemetery database could be done at a later time. Funk said the money is in the budget now and the upgrade is long overdue.

“We get phone calls from funeral homes and family members of relatives in the process of dying.,” Funk said.

“To look up a record now can take two or three days and sometimes requires an actual visit from a cemetery sexton to go out and verify who is where.”

Funk added that she thinks it is a shame the township has not taken this step sooner.

She submitted quotes from two companies. One from Pontem of Eaton Rapids, a company widely used by municipalities in Michigan, was $1,500 for Data Manager plus $750 for an optional mapping. After the first year, there is a $337.50 annual fee for software support and services.

The second quote from BS&A in Bath, was for $7,055. Funk recommended the Pontem quote for board approval.

As background information, she said that Bristol Cemetery, has 3,950 graves and still is an “active” cemetery with burials taking place. Cronk Cemetery has 1,900 graves and has had no burial since at least 2012.

“We have a large “plot map” of Bristol,” she said. “We also have a smaller hand-written index of sales and burials. We do have a database that is not adequate for the job of tracking burials. There is nothing at all in the database for Cronk Cemetery. The only record we have for Cronk is a spiral bound book compiled in 1995.”

Funk said the software is needed to preserve historical records but also as a safeguard against the risk of physical records being destroyed in a fire. Many of the township’s founding families are buried at the Bristol Cemetery. Improved accessible records also would help genealogical researchers, Funk said. Township Supervisor Karyn spoke in support of the database.

“I have been out to the cemetery and seen how difficult it is to find each plot, “she said. “Some records go back more than 100 years.”

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