Carroll County government will spend at least $154,000 over the next 30 years to use part of the Westminster Cemetery property for parking.
The county has begun grading work to create a parking lot on three-quarters of an acre at Greenwood Avenue and Ralph Street. The cemetery's governing board plans to use the property eventually for burial sites. Meanwhile, the Westminster Cemetery Co. needs the income from renting land to the county.
The 77-space parking lot is to be replanted in grass when the lease ends, under an agreement signed in December 1992 by the county commissioners and the cemetery's governing board.
County Public Works Director Keith L. Kirschnick said the lot should be open by the end of this month. The county will pay contractors $9,900 to install curbs and a storm water drain, but county workers will do the rest of the construction work.
Parking on the lot will be free.
"The reason [for leasing the land] is, of course, financial," said George A. Billingslea, president of the cemetery's governing board. He said the cemetery's only sources of income are burials and cremations, lot sales, a small return on investments and rent from a house at the edge of the cemetery formerly used by its superintendent.
Income from burials and cremations is projected at $8,500 in the 1993 budget, lot sales at $8,800. Total income for the year is budgeted at $26,000, expenses at $29,928.
The county paid $1,100 to rent the property this year. The rent increases by $1,100 a year for five years, then annually by the cost of living. Even at no increase in the Consumer Price Index, the fifth-year rent of $5,500 plus the rent before that would come to $154,000 over 30 years. At a 4 percent annual increase in the CPI, the total would be about $260,000 at the end of 30 years.
"I think it's a good bargain," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "Parking in that area is really congested."
Mr. Lippy said parking congestion will get worse when county government brings in modular buildings to house prisoners to ease crowding at the detention center on Court Street. The units are to be placed on the existing parking lot beside the jail in spring 1994.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the lease was the best solution for an area where no better alternative exists.
The lease agreement ended years of occasional talks aimed at acquiring part of the cemetery property for parking. The board saw an income opportunity in renting part of the cemetery for parking. "The projection I made was that we would not need that section [for burial lots] for 50 years," Mr. Billingslea said. He said after the county payments cover expenses, the board hopes to provide some improvements such as fencing. The cemetery occasionally been vandalized.