New Fort Frances columbaria slots up for sale

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Sales have already begun for three columbaria that were recently placed at the Riverview Cemetery in Fort Frances.

Prior to this purchase, Fort Frances already had three columbaria, two at the Riverview Cemetery, which have been fully sold, and one at the Fort Frances cemetery. With the installation of the three columbaria at the Riverview Cemetery, the row of five is now complete.

Travis Rob, operations and facilities manager, said this purchase has been a long time coming with the town trying to finalize the purchase and installation since 2019.

“We were holding off purchasing additional units for Review Cemetery hoping that we would sell some additional units in the Fort Frances Cemetery columbarium, which didn’t end up being the case,” Rob said. “So we went out to tender for one new columbarium back in 2019 which was the first time that we tendered. We had no bids.”

Rob said the town had three responses to the request for proposals they put out. The town settled with Brunet Monuments, a company which operates out of Winnipeg. Brunet Monuments were able to replicate the designs of the existing columbaria.

Because the unit price of each columbarium was cheaper if the town ordered more, Rob said they ended up buying three to complete the row of five columbaria at the Riverview Cemetery.

If they had changed the style of the columbarium, it would be very apparent that something was different, because they are all in a line, Rob added.

“That was an issue for council. They definitely didn’t want to get into the situation where we had, this weird off columbarium stuck in the middle of a row with a bunch of other identical columbaria,” Rob said. “We opted to go with one of the columbarium styles that matched the existing ones.”

Each columbarium cost the town $65,000, adding to a total of $195,000 for the three columbaria. One columbarium has 112 niche, for a total of 336 spots available for purchase.

Prior to the purchase and installation of the columbaria, the town could not have a waitlist nor administer pre-sales.

Now that the units are on site, they are up for sale. Each unit located on the two upper rows costs $1,467.64. Units on the middle four rows are $1,809.33. The bottom two row units cost $1,211.30. All these prices include care and maintenance, but exclude taxes.

Rob said the prices are subject to the town’s annual user fee increase. Every December, council reviews the user fees and applies an increase factor to them. This factor is usually around inflation.

With the last columbarium being purchased in 2006, Rob said the town expects to meet niche demands for the foreseeable future. Rob said he cannot predict when the town will need to think about more columbaria, especially since cremations have become more preferential than traditional burial.

“It’s not like we’re gonna fill these up overnight, it will take some time, but we are well situated now as their popularity increases and their user-ship increases,” Rob said. “We are well positioned to now have space available for many years to come, which is good. We are set up and ready to go.”

One niche is 3 inches wide, 10 inches deep and eight inches high. Rob said this is just enough space to place two urns. Unlike traditional burials, urns could be placed during any season of the year – something Rob said could be a reason for their increasing popularity.

However, families should arrange with the town whenever they need to place an urn. Rob said security is a strong component in the cemetery business.

“We are the holders of the keys to the columbaria and so we will prepare them at the time that you’re looking to be there,” Rob said. “These columbaria have aluminum shelving in them and these aluminum shelves have doors. We will have the door removed for your niche and we’ll have the columbarium open when you arrive and then we will close the niche and the columbarium after you are finished.”