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Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

City to take control of local cemetery next year

By William Kincaid

The city of Celina will take control of North Grove Cemetery in January.. . .

CELINA - Provider of utilities, protector of the public ... caretaker of the dead's final resting place?
The city is unwittingly getting into the cemetery business next year. Celina City Council members on Friday accepted ownership of the North Grove Cemetery, effective Dec. 31, after members and operators of the private cemetery association voted to dissolve due to a lack of funds.
"We are primarily the victims of changing sociological practices and a sustained poor economy," association president Milt Miller said. "The reality is more people are opting for cremation and keeping the remains, investments are not yielding a sufficient return and costs continue to escalate."
Because the cemetery is no longer owned by the association, the title and right of possession transfers to Celina, the municipality in which it lies.
"The Celina administration is not normally in the business of managing a cemetery but we, as trustees, are charged with the responsibility of keeping the cemetery open for centuries to come and properly maintained," Miller said. "The city has the ability to do that. Under Ohio law cities are required to accept responsibility. "
Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel said the trustees did an admirable job of maintaining and keeping the cemetery going for many years, but he doesn't think overseeing a cemetery is the role of government.
The city will do what state law says.
"We don't have any choice. The law requires that," he told the newspaper.
The 19-acre cemetery, established in 1864-1865 and located at the north edge of Celina west of U.S. 127, is the the resting place of most of the city's founding fathers and has 940 platted lots available. It has been under private management for more than a century.
With an estimated 300 years of lots remaining, the city's control of the cemetery will be long term. With the land comes extra costs and the need for additional seasonal help.
Total cemetery expenses were $34,306 from January to November 2013 and $50,545 from January to November 2012, according to records provided by Miller.
Some of the larger expenses this year included $10,679 for general maintenance, $3,375 for grave digging and $9,530 for ground maintenance.
A perpetual care account exceeding $250,000 - funded with proceeds from lot sales - will accompany the deed to the cemetery but city officials can only use the interest it generates toward operating it. The fund typically yields less than $1,750 in interest annually, according to Miller.
As of last month, the association posted deficit spending of $5,945 for the year.
All sales of burial plots will be honored by the city and current cemetery rates, fees and regulations will remain in place until city council members adopt legislation codifying each.
The city's duties as cemetery operators will include mowing, tree trimming, removal of dead trees, maintaining clear cemetery paths and selling and digging grave lots, Hazel said.
The city will not be responsible for maintaing headstones, which are private property, he said.
Many residents' loved ones are buried in the cemetery and the city will provide the care and respect they deserve, Hazel added.
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