Riverview Cemetery gets new columbaria

Ken Kellar

The Town of Fort Frances will be adding three new monuments to one of its graveyards.

At last week’s council meeting, Fort Frances town council approved a report that recommended awarding an Request For Proposals (RFP) for three new columbaria at Riverview Cemetery in the town’s west end. The new columbaria will be supplied by Brunet Monuments out of Winnipeg Man. for a total cost of $194,977 plus applicable taxes.

In the report prepared for council by the Operations and Facilities Executive Committee, Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob noted that the supply of new columbaria for Riverview Cemetery originally went out for tender, but a lack of responses and rumours of material shortages led to the change in format from tender to RFP.

“This was the third time that we had tendered this,” Rob explained to council.

“The previous two times I hadn’t really received any feedback from the prospective suppliers as to why they did not submit tender bids. Partway through the initial stages of the tender, I started to hear some rumblings that the supply of black granite may have been a reason why tender bids had not been submitted previously. I didn’t want to go down the path of having a third tender with no submissions, so we just opened it up to RFP just to basically give ourselves some options, see what’s out there.”

One effect of the change to an RFP was that potential suppliers would be able to propose units of a different style, size or type of columbarium, though the committee was interested in sourcing new columbaria that would match the existing units in the portion of the cemetery they would be installed, noting in the report that “once we start developing other areas in the cemetery for columbaria, different styles and sizes can be considered.”

Two of the three submissions proposed columbaria that would match the existing units exactly, with Brunet Monuments providing the town with a quote of $64,999 plus taxes for each unit. While Rob noted in the report that the last columbarium purchased by the town in 2006 came in at a cost of $52,448, he explained to council that the difference in price from 2006 to now is due in part to the material cost.

“One of the reasons for increase in costs compared to the last columbarium we bought was related to the expense of securing these large black granite slabs,” Rob said.

“So there is still an issue surrounding that black granite, but they are able to get the black African granite.”

While the purchase and installation of these new columbaria is not cheap, the town has allocated some of its budget towards the purchase, with the remainder set to be initially made up through the Cemetery Care and Maintenance Fund. That fund is in turn reimbursed through the sale of niches in each of the columbaria. According to the report, $163,977 will come out of the Cemetery Care and Maintenance Fund, with it noting that “given the current niche pricing model we use, the costs associated with purchasing this columbarium would be well covered based on the 2020 rates.”

At last Monday’s meeting, Councillor Wendy Brunetta brought up some concerns she had heard about technical difficulties in using one of the columbaria already on site and asked Rob to clarify how the town would avoid that issue in a similar model of columbaria.

“People that are familiar with our cemeteries will note we have three of these units installed currently,” Rob explained to council.

“The existing three units were built by a different company, now that company is no longer in business… [the company awarded the project] will handle the construction of these new structures to match the spec of the older structures except they have changed or are intending to change method that the door is constructed. The issue that we have with the three existing units… it is the doorstop that is the problem, so they are suggesting a different type of doorstop, installed in a different manner that will help basically beef up the current doorstop system that we have that we are experiencing issues with in one of our columbarium units right now.”

Each of the columbaria currently owned by the town is dedicated to a significant figure in the town’s history, with the columbarium at Fort Frances Cemetery commemorating Lady Frances Simpson and the two columbaria at Riverview Cemetery bearing the names of J.A. Mathieu and Sieur de la Verendrye. As part of the report prepared for council, the Operations and Facilities Executive Committee also submitted their proposals for the three figures that would be commemorated by the new columbaria.

The first name suggested in the report is Nancy Loutit Calder, or Granny Calder as she was sometimes known, a well respected mid-wife, nurse and member of the second family to arrive in Fort Frances in 1871. The second name proposed for the columbaria is Herbert Williams, a fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company before he became the owner of H. Williams and Company Limited, and eventually served as Fort Frances’ mayor for several years. The final name suggested is that of Dr. David Croal McKenzie, who built the first hospital in the district, served as mayor for six years, and was referred to as “the Father of the Canadian Legion in Fort Frances.”

Town council approved the report, and will now draft a by-law in order to award the RFP to Brunet Monuments.

Also at last week’s council meeting, the decision was made to reimburse Hammond’s Greenhouse for the sunk cost of the flowers that had been ordered for the two cemeteries this summer. Due to COVID-19 and the decision to not hire or recall any of the town’s student labourers, as well as potential contract difficulties in allowing volunteers to do jobs regularly done by town employees, Operations and Facilities deemed it not feasible to plant the flowers, and will instead plant only a few select beds around town.