The latest movement in the Galena Cemetery controversy involved an order from the Delaware County Common Pleas Court that required Berkshire Township to assist with a recent burial.
The township and the village of Galena are currently engaged in a court battle to determine ownership of the two-centuries-old cemetery, which is located inside village limits, but has been owned and operated by Berkshire Township for 183 years. The village filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in common pleas court in September. Both sides are waiting for a decision in that case.
According to a Nov. 3 posting on the Delaware County Clerk of Courts website, Judge David Gormley issued an order that read in part, “Defendant, Berkshire Township Board of Trustees, shall furnish an employee to mark the grave site for the Bricker funeral to be conducted 10/15/15 and/or 10/16/15 at the cemetery.”
According to an obituary found on the Snyder Funeral Homes website, the Devore-Snyder Funeral Home conducted a burial with full military honors for an individual by the name of Charles C. “Chuck” Bricker on Oct. 16 at Galena Cemetery.
Part of Gormley’s ruling required the village to reimburse the township $57.30 related to the cost of having the township employee mark the grave site. If the village prevails in its pending court case against Berkshire Township, the township would then be required to pay the $57.30 back to Galena.
Berkshire Township decided in March of this year to relinquish ownership of the cemetery to the village. 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. Both the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Auditor’s Office have supported the township’s interpretation of the code in the matter.
Shortly after filing the complaint for declaratory judgment, attorneys from the law firm of Frost, Brown, Todd LLC, legal counsel for the village, asked the court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the township from ceasing its care for the cemetery. That request was denied on Sept. 14.
The township filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Oct. 2 in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. In response, the village’s attorneys submitted a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss on Oct. 15. The Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office, which is representing the township, countered by filing a brief in support of the motion to dismiss on Oct. 22.
There was no further action in the case until Nov. 3, when the judge issued the order concerning the Oct. 16 burial.
Also pending in Delaware County Common Pleas Court is a motion on behalf of Galena requesting a preliminary injunction to require Berkshire Township to continue operating the cemetery.
As far as maintenance of the cemetery is concerned, Galena residents have taken that responsibility upon themselves. Volunteers have been mowing and caring for grave sites since late August, according to Charlie Chandler, a former Galena village police chief.
Chandler said he began mowing the cemetery after being told by Galena fiscal officer Marty Mazzie that the township had stopped maintaining the grounds. Nearly two dozen village residents have joined Chandler since August to mow and tend to grave sites.
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.