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Dave Olson, Published July 07 2010

Clay confirms policy on indigent burials

The Clay County Commission on Tuesday made clear the default option is cremation when dealing with the remains of indigent individuals.

The county now pays for burials of people who are on public assistance, or otherwise unable to pay for the disposition of their remains.

Cremation is the cheapest option and the one the county looks to first, unless relatives object or cremation would violate the religious beliefs of the deceased.

That preference was not formally part of the county’s written policy until Tuesday.

Social workers asked for the step, stating it was prompted by a local funeral home’s request to see something in writing before proceeding with a cremation.

The funeral home was worried about liability issues, officials said.

Chief Assistant Clay County Attorney Michelle Lawson said the county doesn’t need to worry about lawsuits as long as it makes a good-faith effort to find relatives who may have a preference.

“If there’s no family, there’s no family,” Lawson said.

Burial with a funeral costs the county about $2,641, while a cremation costs the county an estimated $1,584.

The county paid for 41 burials in 2009. Of those, 18 were cremations.

Most of the cremations were requested by family, county officials said.

Berg hired

The Clay County Commission voted Tuesday to hire Brian Berg as the county’s new administrator.

Berg, who has been the administrator in Becker County, Minn., will begin his job in Clay County on Aug. 2.

His salary in Clay County will start at $110,612.

It would increase to $116,933 after a six-month probation period.

The current administrator, Vijay Sethi, is retiring at the end of the year. He will help train Berg during his remaining months with the county.

Also Tuesday, commissioners named Stephen Larson as director of the West Central Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Larson, who had been a supervisor at the center, replaces Barry Steen, who retired.

Larson’s starting salary as director will be about $66,000.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555