The Mandan Public Works Department is planning to install a columbarium at the city cemetery after experiencing a decrease in demand for full burials.
The structure that stores funeral urns will be installed at Mandan Union Cemetery at 1600 Mandan Ave. NE by early spring, Public Works Director Mitch Bitz said.
It will enable the cemetery to save space and also give patrons another option, he said.
"We can do 40 cremation niches in what would be six burial spaces," he said. "We want to serve our citizens as best we can, as many options that may fit their needs as possible."
The number of full burial spaces the city has sold decreased from 80 to 45 from 2012 to 2018, according to city data. During those same years, the number of full burials decreased from 83 to 53.
The number of cremation burials more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, though they declined from 50 to 28 from 2015 to 2018. Cremation spaces sold also more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, though they decreased from 16 in 2016 to seven in 2018.
Although the local trend for cremation burials has been downward in recent years, Bitz said popularity has increased nationwide.
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Nancy Moser, administrative assistant with the engineering and planning department who gathered the data, said she doesn't know why cremation burials and spaces sold more than doubled between 2012 and 2015.
The city commission approved $12,500 for the columbarium as part of the 2018 budget. This past July, commissioners granted a conditional use permit for the Public Works Department to place the columbarium within city limits.
The department is building the foundation for the columbarium -- a concrete pad to anchor it to the ground. The columbarium is a black rectangular box with 40 square compartments for urns.
The department finalized the rates to use the columbarium last month. They will go into effect on Jan. 1. The cost for owning a compartment, or niche, in the columbarium is $1,200 for residents and $1,300 for nonresidents. The fee to have cemetery staff insert and lock an urn into the columbarium is $400 for residents and $550 for nonresidents.
The Public Works Department promoted Jason Herman from groundskeeper to grounds maintenance superintendent in August. He will oversee the columbarium as part of his new position.
Herman said it could take until early spring to install the columbarium due to scheduling conflicts.
"It’s just the scheduling with our usual upkeep of the summer, with the mowing and trimming, and then your regular burials," he said.