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County panel votes to keep Tonawanda crematory closed

Ashley Hirtzel

Opponents of a plan to reopen a crematory in Tonawanda received a boost from a County Legislature panel Thursday. The Government Affairs Committee recommended revoking Amigone Funeral Home’s status as cemetery land, which is needed to operate a crematory out of its Sheridan Drive site.

In a 4 to 2 vote, the committee moved Tonawanda residents one step closer to what they say is a better quality of life.

Geraldine Pilkington lives four houses away from the funeral home. She says residents have been much happier since cremation services were halted.

“It’s been horrible. In the summer we can’t have friends over, because we never know when the crematory is going to work. Everyday we’d have to come out and clean our patio furniture, because of all the soot. This resolution is just wonderful. It makes it so he can’t start up again and that’s all we’ve ever wanted,” said Pilkington.

The funeral home has not been operating crematory services in Tonawanda since 2012, when the state Attorney General determined that the odor, dust, and noise coming from the facility were “interfering with public health or comfort.”

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Anthony Amigone Jr. and a crematory expert addressing the Government Affairs Committee of the Erie County Legislature.

Legislator Kevin Hardwick says he believes Amigone is trying to solve residents' problems. They proposed the use of new technology that could damper the affects of cremation. But, Hardwick says he doesn’t want the new technology tested locally.

“We heard testimony from the Amigone’s, the attorney, the manufacturer that this would be new technology in the United States, or at least New York State. I’m not sure I want to experiment with unproven technology in people’s back yards,” said Hardwick.

The owners of Amigone say they would like to move their operation, but the Department of State Division of Cemeteries won’t let them. Hardwick says they are currently working to appeal that decision.

“Amione is grandfathered in and they wanted to take their grandfather clause and move that to a more appropriate location, an industrial zone, but the cemetery board for whatever reason said no,” said Hardwick. “As people said here they are great community minded citizens. They’ve done a lot for the community. They have a great name. I would love to see them open a crematory in an industrial zone, but not in someone’s backyard.”

The full legislature will vote next Thursday on whether to revoke Amigone’s cemetery land status that would permanently halt crematory services. The Amigone’s could take legal action against the county if the crematory is officially shutdown.