- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - People in Lewiston are dying more than 50 percent faster than Idaho’s state average, and Erik Lees says that’s good for business.

“It probably explains why we have three healthy cemeteries in town,” Lees told the City Council on Monday, reported the Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1NPQJms ). The city hired his cemetery consulting and planning firm Lees and Associates several months ago to create a plan for the future of Normal Hill Cemetery.

On Monday, Lees presented an extensive draft that highlighted a few statistics, including Lewiston’s high death rate. He told the City Council that the difference can be attributed to Lewiston’s aging population.

Normal Hill will need to develop about 2.2 acres to accommodate an expected 11,500 deaths over the next 25 years, said Lees. Otherwise, he said the in-ground casket lots will sell out in 10 years and the in-ground cremation lots will all be sold in just two years.

Lees’ company also recommended alternative methods for memorializing loved ones. He told the council that the city could add new columbaria, or buildings that house above-ground urns, and other cremation options like gardens where ashes can be scattered or urns can be interred.

The cemetery owns 6.3 acres of undeveloped land on a hillside that could meet Lewiston’s burial needs for up to 75 years. Lees suggested beautifying what he called the “derelict” hillside as the first phase of a four-part plan to turn the land into a proper burial ground.

He said the first phase should start as soon as the city can afford it, possibly in 2017, and would grade the hill and plant trees on its perimeter.

Lees and Parks and Recreation Director Tim Barker also suggested running the cemetery more like a business, with more focus on things like marketing and customer service.

Barker and Lees will present a finalized draft by the end of November.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com

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