City to Acquire West Union Cemetery

Posted on:

< < Back to

The city of Athens is in the process of taking over ownership of the West Union Street Cemetery after the Athens Cemetery Association announced that it won’t have the funds to continue maintaining the site.

Because the association says it can’t continue, the Ohio Revised Code states that the municipality in which the cemetery sits is “obligated to take on the operations,” according to Athens Service-Safety Director Paula Horan Moseley.

The transfer of the cemetery is slated to happen by Aug. 1.

Bill Walker, attorney for the Athens Cemetery Association, told Athens City Council that the association has maintained the cemetery dating as far back to 1864 when the cemetery was established. Walker said it has become evident that the trustees of the association won’t be able to care for the property much longer.

According to Walker, the association has been working over the past year to find out who would take over operations of the cemetery. He said once the city assumes ownership of the cemetery, the association will turn over its assets to the city, including mowers and between $70,000 and $75,000 in operating funds.

Athens Cemetery Association Trustee Pete Good said that on average the association spends around $40,000 per year on the West Union Street Cemetery. He said the mowing and maintenance have been done by two volunteers over the past 20 to 25 years.

Good said that maintenance shouldn’t be too difficult, but said that someone will have to maintain the plot records for the cemetery. He offered his services to help the city with any issues that may arise.

The city currently owns one cemetery on West State Street. Horan Moseley stated that the West State location is essentially a “dormant” cemetery with only four burials within the past 15 years.

The West Union Street Cemetery has far more available plots and lots of visitors. However, Good said that the cemetery is generating far less revenue than it once did with now only six or seven burials happening per year at the location.

Councilwoman Michele Papai said she had concerns about the city taking on the maintenance of a second cemetery when the West State location has crumbling headstones. However, Good said that once a plot is purchased, it is the family’s responsibility to maintain headstones and any other property installed on the plot.

According to Councilwoman Chris Fahl, City Law Director Lisa Eliason is in the process of drafting a new section of city code specifically related to city-owned cemeteries.

Horan Moseley said that the city may have to hire another seasonal employee to help with the maintenance of the cemetery. It was also stated that the city’s utilities billing department may handle the bookkeeping for the cemetery, including plot purchases.

“We’re fortunate enough that (the Athens Cemetery Association) is willing to divest from the cemetery while there are still funds available,” Horan Moseley said.