Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

Dedicated to cemetery preservation in the great state of Ohio

"A cemetery may be considered as abandoned when all or practically all of the bodies have been Removed therefrom and no bodies have been buried therein for a great many years, and the cemetery has been so long neglected as entirely to lose its identity as such, and is no longer known, recognized and respected by the public as a cemetery. 1953 OAG 2978."

Friday, November 18, 2016

What Happens When Cemetery Levies Fail? You Have to Get Creative!

Sharing a report of this sad outcome for the Brookfield, Trumbull County, Ohio cemeteries after the levies for them failed following this last election.  

"Brookfield Voters Reject Levies for Cemeteries and Parks" appeared in the "Sharon Herald" on November 9, 2016 (Sharon, Pennsylvania) the day after the election.  

"BROOKFIELD – With nearly 4,000 votes tallied, two half-mill levies for parks and cemeteries were defeated in Brookfield.
Voters turned down the permanent cemeteries maintenance levy and the 5-year renewable parks maintenance levy about 60 percent to 40 percent.
Together, if passed, the levies would have put an additional $124,000 a year into the township’s finances and allow for needed repairs and upkeep at Brookfield Cemetery along Route 7 near state Route 82; at Payne’s Corners, a smaller cemetery the township owns; and at the park on the village green."

On October 24, 2016 a pre-election article was published entitled:  "Wanted: Money for Park, Cemetery -- Brookfield Township Propose Levies to Cover Necessary Maintenance Costs"  by Sandy Scarmack, head writer of the Sharon Herald.

"BROOKFIELD – Township trustees in Brookfield say they literally have nowhere else to go but to ask the residents for some money to keep up the park and the cemetery.
On Nov. 8, two levies will be on the ballot, asking taxpayers if they will agree to a half-mill tax, which is about $70 per household, to shine up the park and provide perpetual care for the cemetery. Each half mill will add $62,000 to the budget. Together, if passed, the levies would put an additional $124,000 a year into the township’s finances and allow for needed repairs and upkeep that is out of reach now, according to Trustee Dion Magestro.
Both areas are important, he said, but the maintenance at the cemetery is a state requirement that cannot be ignored. 
“We are obligated to provide two things as township officials. Roads and cemeteries. We don’t have to have a police department or a fire department. Everything else could go away, but we have to take care of those two things per the Ohio Revised Code,” he said.
The street department does its best to maintain the cemetery, but still there are headstones toppled over, rust on the chapel doors and grass that’s a bit too high most of the time, Magestro said. The only income for the cemetery is the sale of the plots and the fees for burials. In 2015, that came to $38,000. Maintenance costs were $85,000, he said.
Going back three years, there has been a deficit of about $23,000 every year between income and expenses. With a half-mill tax, the money would be used to make up that difference and to start a separate cemetery fund to ensure perpetual care. Magestro said he isn’t sure people understand that the township is responsible for “hundreds of years of maintenance” at the cemetery along Route 7 near state Route 82 and also at Payne’s Corners, a smaller cemetery the township owns. 
“People don’t give much thought to that kind of stuff when they’re young and healthy,” he added.
As for the park, he considers that Brookfield’s “diamond in the rough” because it’s a pretty place, but time and Mother Nature have worn down some of its better features. For example, Jenny Junction, a children’s play area, has fallen into disrepair, Magestro said. It was dedicated in 2000 to the memory of Jennifer Lynn Boley, a 14-year-old struck and killed by lightning at the park in 1995. 
Other glaring problems, he said, are picnic tables that are peeling apart, buckled pavement and flooded baseball fields. Magestro credits the Brookfield Youth Association with pitching in money every year for taking care of the fields, but care of the park runs an average of a $50,000 deficit every year.
He’d also like to add a security system, he added.
The half-mill levy for the park would be in effect for only five years, he added. “Hold us accountable. Make sure we do what we say we will. If we don’t keep it in tip-top shape, rescind the levy,” he said.
“In Ohio, as trustees, we don’t have the option of just raising taxes. We have to go to the people, and that’s how it should be. But like I always say, if you don’t vote, then you don’t have the option of complaining,” he said."
I sent an email to the Brookfield Township Trustees and received a reply from Dion Magestro:
"...all of the trustees here genuinely share the same concern with our obligations.We know where said obligations ... will continue to work vehemently towards those goals. Thank you for reaching out to us. We will be putting together a plan to ask for donations or asked to be remembered in peoples wills when that time comes. This is an ongoing problem that we will continue to try and mitigate."
Some of my suggestions included working to bring about increased awareness of the plight of the cemeteries under their care through the media and with local genealogical and historical groups.  Getting more like-minded people who care about their community cemeteries together to volunteer in various capacities will ensure that the local cemeteries will not be forgotten.  
Also, check with the county tourism bureau to learn about obtaining grant money funding for needed repairs at a cemetery that has potential for being the site of historical tours.  
Brookfield Township has a great website!: