A foundation is being established for the mowing and care of Galena Cemetery while the village waits for a ruling from the Delaware County courts.
“During this time of indecision, no one has taken care of the cemetery,” said Tom Paul of Harlem Township. “Let’s do the right thing until the judge makes a decision.”
Looking for a better way to care for the cemetery, Paul said he has submitted paperwork to establish a foundation dedicated to the mowing and maintaining of Galena Cemetery. “This is only a temporary solution until there is a ruling in court,” Paul said.
“It’s in the early stages,” Paul said. “I expect paperwork back next week.”
Once the foundation is established, Paul said he would open an account with a local bank for people to deposit donations. The money would only be used for mowing and not used for burials or the repair of head stones.
“The basic idea is to just mow the grass,” Paul said. “It’s not politics — it’s a need to fill.”
Paul appreciates the work done by volunteers from the community in trying to keep up with the grass. “It would be unrecognizable as a cemetery if it was left un-mowed,” he said. “The grass would be four feet high.”
“Volunteers are not a permanent way to care for the cemetery,” he said. “Someone might get hurt.”
Paul wants to hire a professional lawn care company to keep the cemetery dignified-looking for the veterans who have been laid to rest there. “I’m a veteran,” Paul said. “This is no way to treat a veteran. We have a higher calling, a bigger responsibility to our veterans.”
Galena filed a lawsuit against Berkshire Township over the cemetery ownership last September. Village officials have said they do not have the resources to operate and maintain the cemetery. Berkshire Township had owned and operated the cemetery for 183 years, but in March 2015 released ownership of it to the village of Galena, citing state law.
While the matter awaits a ruling in court, citizens of Galena have been mowing the cemetery.
The township cited a section of the Ohio Revised Code that states the village is responsible for care and upkeep of the cemetery since it’s located inside the village boundaries. The cemetery is located on North Walnut Street inside village limits.
Both the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Auditor’s Office supported the township’s position in the matter.
The dispute is set to go to trial Dec. 6 and 7 in Delaware County Common Pleas Court before Judge David Gormley.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.