Space is scarce in the Edgartown cemetery

Cemetery officials told selectmen only four prepared lots remain. Plans are in the works to expand as soon as possible.

A satellite view of the New West Side Cemetery. Currently ten avenues are in use for grave sites, with at least three more surveyed beyond them. — Google Earth

Only four available lots remain at the town-owned and -operated New Westside Cemetery in Edgartown, cemetery commissioners and cemetery superintendent Jen Morgan told selectmen this week at their regular Monday-evening meeting. They requested help in excavating and preparing additional lots farther back in the cemetery, where commissioners said there is currently plenty of land to expand.

“I don’t want to get caught in the middle of winter [unprepared],” commissioner Andrew Kelly said.

Selectmen asked highway superintendent Stuart Fuller to work with cemetery officials to use his department’s excavation equipment to make way for new gravesites, to avoid the cost of hiring an outside contractor. However, Mr. Fuller only learned of the need to clear more space just prior to Monday night’s meeting, town administrator Pam Dolby told selectmen.

Mr. Fuller expressed some reservations about making a commitment on the spot. He said that his department is very busy right now, particularly with roadside tree trimming, but that he would work with the cemetery commission to ensure that the cemetery doesn’t run out of available lots.

“We can get a small section cleared,” Mr. Fuller said.

The cemetery is separated into avenues that accommodate approximately 40 lots each. A full lot, which costs $2,800, is the size of four gravesites. Currently, the cemetery is at the tail end of its 10th avenue, and three additional unprepared avenues have been surveyed, Ms. Morgan said. She anticipates at least another two avenues will fit beyond the 13th.

The cemetery commission, along with Ms. Morgan, requested selectmen’s help with clearing an entire lane. Mr. Fuller suggested clearing half of a lane, or 20 lots. Selectmen told Mr. Fuller to discuss plans with the cemetery commission and its superintendent and to report back to selectmen at their Jan. 11 meeting.

The New West Side Cemetery is the only cemetery in Edgartown with space for new burials. The three other town cemeteries — Old Town Cemetery on Tower Hill Road, Old West Side Cemetery on Peases Point Way, and Jeffer’s Lane Cemetery on Chappaquiddick — are full.

Only current Edgartown property owners are eligible to purchase lots in town cemeteries.

Cemetery commissioner Elizabeth Villard said that there is no way to predict how far in advance people choose to purchase lots. Some choose to buy lots years in advance, and some don’t make a purchase until after someone has died. On average, the Edgartown cemetery department sells about 15 lots a year.

Pitbull complaint filed

In other business, Paulo Miranda of High Road, the victim of an unprovoked attack by his neighbor’s 5-year-old gray pitbull, Jaxx, on Dec. 14, sent a formal complaint to selectmen, who in turn forwarded the complaint to town animal control officer (ACO) Barbara Prada.

Mr. Miranda was treated at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital after Jaxx ran up to him and bit him on the arm as he walked to his car while talking to his wife on his cell phone. The dog’s owner, Brian Scott, was not home at the time of the attack.

Jaxx was quarantined in the pound until Christmas Eve, the full quarantine period allowed.

In a phone conversation with The Times Wednesday, Ms. Prada said the next step is for her to compile statements from both involved parties and compile a report. She will make a recommendation about what to do with Jaxx, and selectmen will hold a hearing. She said it is too early for her to know what sort of recommendation she will make, but that it could range from requiring the dog to wear a muzzle up to euthanasia.

“They usually go with my recommendation,” she said.