Merritt City Council voted unanimously to push back phase two of the City’s cemetery expansion plan at its August 23rd regular meeting, a decision which will see the project next addressed by a newly elected council. The next time the project will be considered is for the 2023 budget, well after the municipal election scheduled for October 15 of this year.

Expansion at Pineridge Cemetery, owned and operated by the City of Merritt, is guided by the Cemetery Master Plan, a 2017 document which sets the maintenance and vision for the cemetery on Juniper Drive. The plan’s included expansion strategy provides an overall plan to guide cemetery development over the next ten years. Phase two, which sees the addition of a cremation garden, is currently underway and causing concern for City staff and contractors.

“The short of it is that this project came in significantly over budget, having gone to request for proposal (RFP),” said Chief Administrative Officer Sean Smith, addressing council at its August 23 regular meeting.

“We budgeted $240,000 to complete phase 2 of the project, and we’re just not really even close. We had three bids come in, and the low bid was $385,000, which puts us $145,000 over budget. That is, in part, due to an increase in prices, there’s no question.”

Smith added that the City’s initial budget may have been low in its estimations on the quantity of retaining walls needed for the expansion. He also cited contractors and public works staff’s concerns with a possible lack of City oversight should the project advance this year, as the City itself and some contractors are understaffed. Council was faced with two options: increase this year’s budget to $420,000, allowing the project to move ahead this year, or push the project until 2023.

Staff suggested council push the project, allowing for more City oversight on the project and preventing a budget amendment. Smith noted that three families are currently waiting to inter loved ones at Pineridge Cemetery, with once family waitlisted since 2017, causing concern for some councillors.

After council discussed their options, including a third option of a temporary installation while the garden is completed, a unanimous vote decided the project will be pushed until next year. Councillors agreed that more City oversight and design time would be appropriate for this project.

“If you have a poor design and it looks really wonky, we’re going to regret that and wish we had spent the money,” added Councillor Adam Etchart, speaking to council and staff.

“Leaving it for the next council seems like another delay, but at the same time, you really need to think about people visiting their loved ones. I think it’s best for people to have a well thought out plan and not stretch anybody too thin.”

For more information on Pineridge Cemetery, and to view the Cemetery Master Plan, visit