The Tioga Point Cemetery in Athens installed three columbariums Monday, citing increased interest in a public place to store the ashes of the deceased.

The columbariums are the first in Bradford County, with the closest before Monday being located in Binghamton and Elmira, said cemetery board member Cindy Yanuzzi. The compartmentalized holders, each weighing 8,000 pounds, can hold 24 urns apiece.

A crane from Mattison's Bucket Service in Waverly lifted each columbarium off a flatbed truck and onto concrete bases in the front of the cemetery. A stone path to the area will be installed in the future, as well as landscaping, Yanuzzi said.

Cemetery board members had discussed the idea of columbariums for several years as one of many ways to expand the cemetery. The board decided earlier this year to install them as the need continues to increase, Yanuzzi said.

The popularity of cremation is rising, said Ted Dydynski, supervisor and owner of Cooley-Tioga Point Cremation in Athens. Today, about 40 percent of the deceased are cremated, Dydynski said.

For those who choose cremation, columbariums are less expensive than buying a cemetery plot, Yanuzzi said. The cemetery will charge $1,900 per niche, including inurnment and lettering of an engraved plate, according to information from the cemetery.

"It's just the way to go," Yanuzzi said. "There's a need for it."

The cemetery also seeks memorial donations of $5,000 for a bench at the columbarium site and $10,000 for a central feature table, cemetery officials said.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.