Bill Aims to Keep Funeral Homes Open
Originally published by: SCTimes
Minnesota funeral homes are watching a bill at the state Capitol that could affect whether their branch locations must be upgraded to keep operating after next year.
Rep. Jim Knoblach is author of the bill that would allow funeral homes to continue to operate even if they use a preparation room at a central location for embalming.
State law changed a few years ago to require every funeral home to have a preparation room at every location by June 30, 2017. For some companies, upgrading branch locations could be a costly burden they can’t absorb, leaving some small towns without a funeral home.
“They’re just going to close down, because it doesn’t pay to spend $100,000 on adding a prep room onto them if they only have one funeral a month there,” Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, said in a recent interview with the Times.
Funerals are often held in gymnasiums, VFWs, churches and other locations where there aren’t preparation rooms, he noted.
The Minnesota Funeral Directors Association initially proposed the requirement that every funeral home should have a prep room, said spokeswoman Darlyne Erickson.
“It’s a matter of having the right equipment to do the job,” Erickson said. “We feel it’s important as a profession that a funeral home have everything they need, and that would be an updated prep room.”
However, the association has members on both sides of the issue and is remaining neutral on the bill, she said. The Minnesota Department of Health also has not taken a position.
Williams Dingmann Family Funeral Homes updated all of its facilities in 2008 in anticipation of the law change, company president Doug Dingmann said. But while all of the eight locations in Central Minnesota now have functional prep rooms, most of the preparation work is done at the St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids facilities, he said.
“We do still kind of centralize all of our care,” Dingmann said. That helps the funeral home hold down costs for its customers, he said.
Miller-Carlin Funeral Homes also has maintained prep rooms at all four of its branches in St. Cloud, Albany, Holdingford and Upsala, owner Bill Carlin said. But not all funeral homes have, he said.
“Those small towns that do not have embalming rooms are going to have to do some major remodeling to accomplish that, and that may hurt those towns to lose those funeral homes,” Carlin said.
Knoblach’s provision was included in the omnibus budget bills that passed the House but wasn’t included in the Senate bill. A conference committee, which Knoblach co-chairs, is working to reconcile the differences in the bills.