Berkshire Township has filed a counter-claim against the village of Galena in an ongoing lawsuit to determine who will have future responsibility for Galena Cemetery.
The counter-claim comes with the township’s response to Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David Gormley’s Dec. 7 decision to deny the township’s motion to dismiss the case.
In their counter-claim, township officials presented evidence from the state Auditor’s Office and the Ohio Revised Code to support their position that they have no responsibility to care for the cemetery, as they have done for more than 183 years.
The township states that a letter from the Auditor’s Office informed the township that it has “no legal authority to expend funds to care for Galena Cemetery because the cemetery is located completely within the municipal boundaries of the village of Galena.”
Township officials added the letter says the township could face potential financial liability if it continues to maintain the cemetery.
The township also added that it reached out to the village on June 23, 2015, with a copy of the state auditor’s letter and a request that they work together to develop a transition for the care of the cemetery.
“Despite [the township’s] repeated requests to transition the cemetery in a mutually agreeable and cooperative fashion to the care of the village, [the village] did not accept responsibility for the cemetery and would not assist with a transition,” township officials said in their counter-claim.
In their counter-claim, township officials request that Gormley declare that the village has the right to the title and possession of the cemetery and that the township has no legal obligation to maintain it. They also request a monetary judgment of $535.56 to cover the costs of material and labor expended on Aug. 11, 2015, when the township handled a burial at the cemetery.
The cemetery, which is located on North Walnut Street inside the Galena village limits, has been owned and operated by the township for 183 years. Galena village officials have said they do not have the resources to run and maintain the cemetery, and sued the township.
The Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office has also sided with the township and is representing township officials in court.
The disagreement went to court when Galena filed a lawsuit against Berkshire Township in September 2015. Shortly after filing the lawsuit, attorneys for the village asked the court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the township from ceasing its care of the cemetery. That request was denied by Gormley on Sept. 14.
Both sides are awaiting Gormley’s final decision in the lawsuit.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.