Everly Wheatley Funeral Home will be directly affected if an Alexandria proposal goes through.
For years Alexandria has provided on-duty police officers free of charge to escort funeral processions of 10 cars or more, but with budget cuts looming for 2011, that policy might soon change.
“It’s a time honored tradition that’s unique to the city of Alexandria and I think it’s unfortunate that the city is proposing this,” said April Felkins, director of Everly Wheatley.
“We decided to review that policy during our recent budget review,” said Alexandria Deputy Police Chief Blaine Corle. “We looked at whether that was the appropriate use of resources and realized that we draw about 6 percent of our motorcycles per year on that type of service, and we’re looking for alternatives now to better use their time.”
In 2009, Alexandria police escorted 133 funeral processions. Under the proposal off-duty officers would be used for a fee of $655 for the first 90 minutes and $400 for each additional hour.
It’s too early to tell the economic impact of the proposal, Felkins said, but she hopes the plan doesn’t go through, saving families already going through a tough time the extra headache.
“When people get disconnected from the procession – you know they may not be from the area and they’re not sure how to get to the cemetery – it just creates a lot of stress for the family,” said Felkins.
With police escorts, that doesn’t happen, Felkins said, and everyone in the procession feels safe.
Under the new policy, safety would not be compromised, Alexandria police said.
“What we do know is that we don’t have a lot of accidents that we can attribute directly to funeral escorts whether the funeral procession is escorted or not,” said Corle. “So it’s hard to judge, but we do not anticipate any impact in that regard."