Montgomery County commissioners approved a motion to authorize the purchase of cemetery plots for the disposition of deceased paupers at their Feb. 25 meeting. Paupers are persons who are buried at public expense because families could not afford a burial.

According to state law, the commissioners court of each county must provide for this disposition.

“The county ... is required to dispose ... [individuals who do not] have the money, got no family,” County Judge Mark Keough said in a followup interview. “They don’t have to be homeless; it could be somebody that lived with somebody else.”

Cremations are primarily used if a family member is seeking assistance with their deceased family member, County Judge Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps said in an email. Burials are only done when the county is making the decision for the lack of a family member being involved

The commissioners approved the item on the consent agenda with no discussion. As required by state law, commissioners must consider the religious affiliation of the pauper, and if the county discovers cash in the possession of a deceased pauper, the county may use it to pay for burial costs.

Historically, the judge’s office has purchased cemetery plots at Conroe Memorial Park, located on Porter Road, Millsaps said. In fiscal year 2018-19, the county purchased seven double-depth plots, which had the capacity to bury 14 individuals. As of Feb. 25, the county had only one double-depth plot left, he said.

“We generally purchase plots in multiple blocks to ensure the best possible price to the county,” he said.

On Feb. 26, Millsaps said that the judge’s office purchased an additional seven double-depth plots for $4,000.

Overall, the entire indigent burial program costs the county between $30,000-$36,000 per year, which includes the cost to acquire cemetery plots, burials, cremations and all other associated cost, Millsaps said. In FY 2018-19, the county spent $36,608 on the program, and the budget for this fiscal year is $31,000, he said.

“This expense is a statutory requirement for qualified paupers, so if the expenses necessary to fulfill this program exceed the budget, the court would have to make additional funds available,” he said.