Plans to open crematorium Down East under way

Posted April 17, 2009, at 9:19 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — A nonprofit organization plans to open a $200,000 crematorium in Calais later this year.

Washington County Crematorium plans to open the facility in the Calais Cemetery located on South Street. State law requires that crematoriums be built in cemeteries.

Crematorium spokesman Anthony J. Giard, who is a funeral attendant at May’s Funeral Home in Calais, said state law also requires that crematoriums be owned and operated by nonprofit organizations.

“And that nonprofit cannot be operated by a licensed funeral director,” he said. “Maine is unique with some of these laws, unlike other states where funeral homes do have crematoriums right in their facilities.”

There are no crematoriums in Washington County. The closest is in Bangor, where there are two, he said.

Giard first approached the city’s land use committee, which agreed to lease the land to the crematorium. After that he went before the Calais City Council which also approved the idea. The nonprofit will pay the city a yearly fee.

“It’s a 1-acre lot at the back of the cemetery,” he said.

The nonprofit is now waiting for state permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Once those are granted, the state Department of Health and Human Services will issue the license. Giard said he hopes to begin construction in June and have the facility open in August. Giard plans to use local contractors during construction.

The 30-by-30-foot wooden structure will be built on a cement slab. “Very simple, very plain,” he said. “Designed to be as unobtrusive as possible.”

Included in the cost is the $80,000 cremation machine, which weighs tons. “The big cremation machine goes in before the roof is put on,” he said “They use a crane.”

Giard said that the crematorium would lead to one job or more if there were more use. “We don’t know how many funeral homes in the [county] will use the crematorium,” he said.

To date only May’s Funeral Home in Calais and Eastport has agreed to use the facility.

Once the main system is up and running, he said, there will be room in the building for a second system for pet cremation.

“They are a little bit smaller,” he said of the machines. “But in the plans for the design of the building, it is all set up for that.”

He said the two nearest pet crematoriums are in Auburn and New Brunswick.

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