Reflection Center to Replace Cemetery Chapel

For four years, City staff has been striving for a solution that addresses the future of the Vaughn-Hansen chapel at Hillside Cemetery. Built by Myron Silberman in the 1970’s, the chapel has been in gradual disrepair due to limited funds and natural aging.

“The Chapel building is forty years old, and as any building of that age, it needs window, doors, and new furnace and air conditioning,” said Mike Baltus, Hillside Cemetery Coordinator. “We also would need to address the mold and mildew issue, carpeting replacement and the outer walls need to be re-caulked and sealed.”

In July 2016, Silberman suggested converting the chapel into a columbarium, proposing to the Board of Public Works a funding outline that included a need for $40,000 from Marshfield Rotary Club and the Vaughn-Hansen family, $40,000 from the community, and $80,000 from the City of Marshfield.

With this total of $160,000, the City could make the needed repairs and put the remaining funds in a separate fund for future maintenance. (According to a City memo, this cost was based on an estimate of $100,000 for the required repairs, and setting aside $60,000 for future needs.)

The Board voted against a proposal to further study this option. A private donor then offered $160,000 for the needed repairs, but this never developed and the donation didn’t take place.

After working with the Vaughn family and Silberman, Baltus developed a more affordable option that would aim to be a compromise for all parties involved. This would involve razing the chapel, and in its place, erecting an attractive “reflection center” that would include a monument, benches, brick pavers, and decorative landscaping (click to see image from City Meeting packets).

“The Reflection Center idea came forward after as staff we felt we have exhaust all the other uses for the building,” said Baltus. “The chapel has never been about money; it has always been how we get the building used.”

Baltus revealed that the last documented use of the building was in July 2006 and that despite their best efforts, staff were unable to find any group interested in obtaining and using the building.

“As staff, we solicited the public for input and purpose for the building. We checked with the local veterans and the local historical society with no interest or ideas,” he said. “We also looked into turning the building into an indoor columbarium for cremation entombment and again no interest was shown. I feel as staff we have checked all the options and a reflection center would be a great alternative, rather than a building no one uses”

Baltus feels that the new Reflection Center is the best solution for all involved, and one that will honor the Vaughn and Hansen families.

“A cemetery is all about respect, and as staff we didn’t want to take the chapel down without doing something to honor the families who donated the chapel,” he said. “I think this is a great compromise because it does something for everyone. It removes the tax burden from the citizens of Marshfield to maintain a building no one uses. It honors the families who donated the building, and it will prevent the land from being used for something else.”

Baltus estimates the cost to raze the chapel to be roughly $50,000 (City’s expense), and the cost of the proposed improvements would be the donor’s’ responsibility.

“The next step for the chapel building is to have the removal cost placed in the 2018 budget,” said Baltus. “In 2018, we’ll have the removal bidding process, removal, landscaping and placement of the memorial.”

The Reflection Center has been approved by the Board of Public Works and Board of Public Works minutes were approved at the August 8th Common Council meeting.

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