By: Korie Marshall
“Is Jimmy Hoffa buried here?”
Jim James says it’s the question he gets most often when people see him working this type of job. Hoffa was an American labour union leader who became involved with organized crime. He disappeared in 1975, and is widely believed to have been murdered, but his body has never been found.
James is the Regional Director for Canada of Ground Penetrating Radar Systems, Inc. He has been hired by the Village of Valemount to survey the oldest section of the municipal graveyard using ground penetrating radar.
The technology is usually used to find underground utility lines or answer other environmental questions about the top layer of the ground beneath our feet, but James says he is sometimes hired to locate old grave sites.
The Village has not been able to use the northeast quarter of the cemetery, because there is no record of exactly where or how many people are buried there. A survey of the cemetery from 2011 shows about 45 vacant lots left in the rest of the cemetery, and the Village has been working since before then on how to provide more burial space.
A staff report to Council during the 2015 budget process this spring says current inventory might be used in the next 12 to 18 months. The report estimated 100-120 burial plots could be created in the north east corner, depending on how many existing plots are found. That may be enough to serve the community for another 15 to 20 years. The survey was expected to cost about $8000.
The cemetery is between a park area and the Valemount Fire Hall, so expansion is not likely feasible, but more space for future expansion will need to be identified. Staff currently estimates a new cemetery could be surveyed and cleared on Village property for about $26,000.