The town of Blue Hill is responsible for a mixup at a town-owned cemetery in which cremated remains were buried in a plot that already had been sold to a different family, town officials said Monday morning.

Blue Hill officials acknowledged that the town accidentally sold the same plot at Seaside Cemetery to two different families. Former employees of the town, who moved on to other jobs before the problem came to light, sold the plot first to one family and then later to another.

The Harris family, who were the second buyers of the plot, buried Christina Harris’ cremains there last November. But in June, when the Harrises contacted the town about erecting a monument on the plot, they were told they buried Christina Harris’ cremains in the wrong place.

The Bangor Daily News reported last month that the Harrises had buried the cremains in the wrong plot, based on an interview with Select Board Chair Ellen Best.

Since then the Harris family and the Billings family, who were the first buyers of the plot, have lobbied the town to fix the situation — both by sorting out which family would get which plot, and by acknowledging that the town made the mistake, not the families.

Patrick Harris, Christina Harris’ son, said he has documentation that he, his sister and his aunt buried his mother’s cremains in the same plot that they thought they had purchased two years ago.

“The Town of Blue Hill sold this lot, #62, to my aunt in the summer of 2021,” Harris said. “She then deeded it to my sister and I for the purpose of interring our mother, Christina Harris. I am, in fact, in possession of a contract for said lot that was co-signed by Ellen Best.”

Best did not return a message left at her office on Monday.

Harris said he went to the Blue Hill town office in June to straighten things out.

“Upon investigating with the new town clerk, she discovered that, between two of her predecessors, the lot had been double-sold, and that another family had owned it since 2020 and indeed had already made a burial there,” he said.  “Once the clerical error was discovered, she has been working diligently with the town administrator to correct the problem without further upset.”  

After the mixup came to light, the town agreed to move Christina Harris’ cremains to an adjacent unsold lot at its own expense.

“Members of the Harris and Billings families attended a recent Select Board meeting to express their unhappiness about the error and about a report in the Bangor Daily News that implied that one of the families was at fault,” the board said Monday. “The Select Board on behalf of the town accepted full responsibility for the mistake and expressed its deep apologies, both for the error and the implication in the BDN report that one of the families had done something wrong.”

Town officials said they are taking steps to ensure that the town accurately keeps track of who owns which lot at all three of its municipal cemeteries, which include Mountain View off Tamworth Farm Road and the Old Settlers Cemetery on Union Street.

Also, after years of contracting out all of its public works functions, the town recently has hired its first-ever public works employee, who is expected to help with the town’s cemetery operations.

“This should never happen”, said Jim Dow, a member of the Select Board. “We fully understand the families’ distress. Neither family was at fault.”

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....