Digital upgrade for cemeteries advances

2013-06-13T08:00:00Z Digital upgrade for cemeteries advancesBy Tyler Ellyson / tellyson@columbustelegram.com Columbus Telegram

COLUMBUS — The Columbus Cemetery Board gave its approval Wednesday for a project that will ease the sometimes difficult task of locating gravesites.

But, the 5-0 decision to move forward with the purchase of a digital directory that stores burial plot information no longer includes a partnership with the city’s Catholic cemeteries.

Public Property Director Doug Moore said the private board that oversees All Saints and St. Bonaventure Catholic cemeteries is no longer interested in a cost-sharing plan that would have added information from those cemeteries to the electronic kiosk.

Representatives of that board could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

With only the two city-owned cemeteries involved, the Columbus Cemetery Board elected to pursue the purchase of one directory with the possibility of installing a second in the future.

The plan recommended by the board places the first directory in Columbus Cemetery, located along 12th Avenue just south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. However, the device has the capability of storing locations and other information for every gravesite within Roselawn Cemetery, as well.

Moore suggested starting with Columbus Cemetery because it’s the older, more established burial ground.

The budget for fiscal year 2013-14, which begins Oct. 1, includes $30,000 to purchase and install the directory, plus build a roof over the unit that reduces glare and protects users from the elements.

Because it’s a capital improvement item, the funding would come from local sales tax revenue.

Moore said the timeline for installation depends on how long it takes to prepare the gravesite information and upload it to the unit. The project also must be approved by Columbus City Council and bid.

Moore told the board he has “a good feeling” the council will OK the project given the cemetery department’s history of frugality and the overall benefit of adding a digital directory.

He has supported the project as a way to reduce the number of hours city employees spend filling requests for gravesite information.

A likely bidder on the project is Windy Prairie Systems Inc., an Indianola company that presented information on the directories during the March cemetery board meeting.

That company’s models can provide directions to within 10-15 feet of an individual gravesite. The units, which start in price at a little more than $20,000, feature digital touch screens and audio and video capabilities.

More expensive versions can print maps, photos, memorials and other information stored on the directories, but Moore said the city will look at a basic model.

Windy Prairie Systems, which installed the electronic cemetery directory in Genoa, would sell the virtual memorials, including obituaries, photos and videos, with one-third of the revenue returning to the city.

If the digital directory at Columbus Cemetery is a success, another $30,000 will be included in the fiscal year 2014-15 budget to install a second unit at Roselawn Cemetery, located along 23rd Street west of Third Avenue.

“Maybe if it goes over well then the Catholic cemeteries will want to do it, too,” said board member Shirley Martys.

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