Meredith crematorium gets green light to continue operating

By BEA LEWIS. for The Laconia Daily Sun

MEREDITH — A judge has ruled a local funeral home can continue to offer cremation services as it operations have never been cited for violating air emissions or other regulatory standards.

Peter and Kelley Mayhew, who own and operate the funeral home of the same name at 204 Daniel Webster Highway had initially asked a judge to issue an injunction to stop a neighboring property owner from defaming
them.

Leslyee and Douglas Frederick, who ran the American Police Motorcycle Museum at 194 Daniel Webster Highway next door to the funeral home have voiced repeated public complaints at local meetings of selectmen, claiming the crematorium deposits ash on their property that they believe is the product of cremation.

In July, Judge Amy Ignatius denied they Mayhews' request to gag the Fredericks, finding there was no immediate danger of "irreparable harm to justify the extraordinary step of imposing a prior restraint on
speech."

The Fredericks, in turn, asked the court to either temporarily order the Mayhews to stop using the crematorium, or to prohibit them from using it between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The dispute appears poised to become a showdown between experts. Both sides have submitted reports to the court supporting their respective positions.

According to a report of an industrial toxicologist retained by the Fredericks, testing of a sample of a particulate matter that was allegedly discharged by the crematorium's chimney showed high levels of 19 heavy metals that pose a public health hazard.

A report authored by an expert retained by the Mayhews, however, concluded there were no malodorous emissions or particulates seen during observation of the crematorium in operation.

As neither report had been subject to cross examination, Judge Ignatius said she did not consider them in making her decision denying the Mayhews' request for an injunction.

"After a review of the evidence, the court finds that the (Fredericks) have failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits (of their case) at this time," the judge held.

As the suit continues towards trial, now scheduled to begin this spring, the judge said, the contents of the debris that is allegedly emitted from the crematorium "will be scrutinized."

"The court is not convinced at this stage of a need to compel a significant curtailment of the funeral home's operations," she wrote.

Meanwhile, attorney William Woodbury of Laconia, who represents the Fredericks and the museum, has withdrawn their claims for business related damages, including relocation costs.

The Mayhews had earlier requested that the Fredericks turn over the museum's federal tax returns from 2010-2015 as well as profit and loss statements and related financial records.

On Dec. 15, the court issued a conditional default against the defendants for failing to produce the records.

In asking that the business damage claims be dismissed, Woodbury wrote that action did not diminish the remaining claims that the museum was driven to involuntary closure as a result of the noxious conditions they allege are caused by the abutting crematorium.

A final pretrial hearing is now scheduled for March 30. A jury is to be selected on April 10.

01-11 Mayhew-museum

The Mayhew Funeral Home, right, sits next to what was the Motorcycle Musem in Meredith. The crematory's chimney is almost level with the museum, which closed after the owners said odors and ash from the crematory made operation impossible. (File photo)