Spokane Journal of Business

Fairmount Memorial Association acquires two cemeteries

Large association takes assets, debt of longtime Valley burial nonprofit

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The Fairmount Memorial Association, of Spokane, has acquired the assets of the Opportunity Cemetery Association, says Denny York, president and CEO of Fairmount Holdings Inc., a for-profit division of the organization.

York says no money changed hands through the acquisition, which was completed this month, but Fairmount agreed to assume Opportunity's debt in exchange for its assets. He declines to disclose the amount of debt it had held.

The assets include the 35-acre Pines Cemetery, at the northwest corner of16th Avenue and Pines Road, and the 69-acre South Pines Cemetery, at the southwest corner of 32nd Avenue and state Route 27. The latter cemetery only has seven acres of land developed, he says. Other assets Fairmount took over include equipment such as a backhoe and maintenance trucks, and open accounts of those who haven't passed away yet.

"We'll spend several hundred thousand dollars in the next couple years bringing these up to how we think they should look," York says.

Work at the newly acquired sites is expected to include new landscaping and additional memorial and cremation options, he says. Possible options for the two cemeteries include building a military monument and military lawn, adding scattering gardens for cremated remains, and what he calls innocence, which is a burial site for children and babies.

York says the organization also is considering adding burial plots around a chapel at Pines Cemetery, and converting utility roads at both sites into available burial plots. The net effect could be a total of an additional 1,250 plots at the two properties, York says.

York says 20,000 people are buried at the two Valley cemeteries, and Pines Cemetery had been at capacity prior to the planned conversion of utility roads. He estimates it will take about 50 years to fill the Pines Cemetery and "hundreds and hundreds" of years before South Pines Cemetery is fully developed and at capacity.

Fairmount Memorial Association employed 70 people prior to the acquisition, York says, and the organization hired six new employees, none of whom were employed by Opportunity. He says prior to the sale of the assets, Opportunity's three full-time employees either quit or were let go by the organization. He says six existing Fairmount employees will work at the two newly acquired cemeteries, while the new hires will fill vacancies at other Fairmount properties.

Before taking over ownership of the land, York says Fairmount had a month-long service agreement with Opportunity to take care of the cemeteries.

Fairmount Memorial Association owns and operates about 650 acres of developed and undeveloped land used for cemeteries. Its other Spokane-area properties include Riverside Memorial Park, at 508 N. Government Way; Greenwood Memorial Terrace, at 211 N. Government Way; Spokane Memorial Gardens, at 5909 S. Cheney-Spokane Road; Fairmount Memorial Park, at 5200 W. Wellesley; and Woodlawn Cemetery, at 909 S. Thierman. He estimates more than 240,000 people are buried at its five cemeteries. The Pines and South Pines cemeteries are some of the smaller acreage properties the organization owns, he says.

"Just in the developed 300 acres, we have another couple hundred thousand crypts, lots, and niches available plus the other 350 acres we haven't touched yet," York says.

York says acquiring cemeteries that have fallen into disrepair is how Fairmount has acquired most of its property.

"Today, to go out and buy 100 acres of land, and then develop it and do everything you'd have to do to make it into a beautiful cemetery, I don't think you could afford to do that," York says.

Fairmount Memorial Association is a nonprofit that owns and operates cemeteries, while Fairmount Holdings Inc., a division of the organization, runs for-profit business tied to the organization. Those businesses include the Heritage Funeral Home & Crematory, at 508 N. Government Way, and Community Cremation & Funeral, which has locations on the North Side, at 4407 N. Division, and in the Valley, at 13127 E. Sprague.

York says Fairmount acquired Opportunity's assets after a board member who had run the organization for more than 20 years died.

A longtime executive with Yoke's Washington Foods Inc., of Spokane Valley, York has served as president of Fairmount Holdings for about a year and a half and sits on the Fairmount nonprofit board.

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