Funeral home may be rebuilt

March 26, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Funeral home may be rebuilt

The owner of Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown's North End said he plans to rebuild the funeral home there.

The funeral home was closed after a February 1984 fire destroyed the Rest Haven chapel.

Combined funeral homes and cemeteries are convenient and can save customers money, said Rest Haven owner Charles Brown.

The two-story, roughly 16,200-square-foot funeral home would be on the site of the previous funeral home near the mausoleum at 1601 Pennsylvania Ave., Brown said. Construction is expected to cost $800,000 to $900,000, he said.

Brown said Tuesday he will lease the funeral home to a licensed independent mortician. He would like the funeral home to open by the end of the year.


Proposed state legislation that would have given Brown the opportunity to get his own license failed last Friday. The House Environmental Matters Committee defeated the measure by a 14-5 vote, according to the committee's office.

Only 59 licenses exist in the state, which no longer issues them, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

The legislation called for issuing 10 new licenses this year and more in the future. A similar proposal last year also died in committee.

Brown bought the cemetery in February 1988 from Houston-based Service Corporation International, which still holds an operating license, he said.

He said he cannot afford to buy the corporation's operating license.

Because of the limited number of existing licenses and the heavy demand for them, the licenses have been traded for between $150,000 and $200,000, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Brown said that in testimony before state legislators two weeks ago he said that issuing new licenses to small business people who cannot afford to buy an existing one would increase competition and keep customer costs down.

A fiscal report by the Department of Legislative Services states that issuing more licenses could hurt small business people who now own such licenses. Corporate chains could cut costs, hurting independently owned funeral homes, it states.

The report also mentions the possibility the state could face litigation from large corporate funeral homes, such as Service Corporation International, because the proposed legislation requires the businesses to be in Maryland. Three big funeral home corporations are based outside Maryland.

Brown said having a funeral home at Rest Haven Cemetery would help provide revenue to maintain the 50-acre cemetery.

Several North End residents use the cemetery as a park, walking the grounds and feeding the waterfowl, he said.

"We're really part of the park system, but we're not supported by taxes," Brown said.

The Herald-Mail Articles