Funeral homes won’t provide county services

Reese Hultman, funeral director for Peterson-Johnson Funeral Home in Milaca, told county commissioners at their Jan. 17 meeting that the four funeral homes in the county will decrease their services for county-funded funerals.

Noting that the county turned down a request for an increase for professional services in 2011, while approving a small increase for the cost of caskets and vaults, Hultman said there was no choice but to limit the services provided for such funerals.

(Mille Lacs County spent $33,357 on such funerals for indigent residents in 2011.)

Hultman said he could understand the county trying to hold the line on expenses but noted that elected officials recently received salary increases, as well as new positions being approved for some departments.

“You are not doing it [holding down spending] across the board,” Hultman said.

Hultman also said he was told by Commissioner Phil Peterson not to come to the board if he was going to ask for an increase.

He presented figures showing that funeral homes in the county are “well below average” in what they charge for county funerals.

Hultman told commissioners that funeral homes would now provide an immediate burial or immediate cremation but that no funeral services would be provided.

Funeral homes will take care of burials or cremations but families will be asked to contribute up to $700 for things such as printed bulletins.

“We chose $700 as the maximum reimbursement figure from the family because that puts our professional service reimbursement in line with the state average which is about $1,500, plus cost of casket and vault,” Hultman wrote in a letter about the policy change.

Commissioners had little comment on comments by Hultman.

A motion was passed to increase reimbursement costs of caskets and vaults by $10 apiece.