Delaware News

City keeps Oak Grove in black

Delaware's own workers will take care of newly acquired graveyard

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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
Jim Skinner mows the grass Friday morning, June 14, at Oak Grove Cemetery, 334 S. Sandusky St. The city of Delaware took over operation of the cemetery last year.
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Following months of review, Delaware officials last week laid out a budget to keep the Oak Grove Cemetery solvent under city control.

At a June 10 meeting, Delaware City Council saw a preliminary budget plan for the cemetery after taking over operations last fall.

The city will spend about $171,900 to run the cemetery in 2013.

According to a report from the city's finance review committee, it will save about $50,000 by using city employees instead of contractors to maintain the site.

A bid for maintenance services from Ostrander Implement came in at $222,420.

The maintenance plan will require a supplement to the city's cemetery fund in the amount of $35,000 to pay for maintenance and the purchase of new equipment.

The first reading of a resolution to appropriate the extra cash was heard at the June 10 meeting; council is expected to approve the funding at its next meeting June 25.

"We set the budget at the beginning of this year, but we didn't know precisely what amount of work was going to be required, and now we have a better idea," said City Manager Tom Homan. "This will allow us to continue operating the cemetery in the black."

Councilman Andrew Brush added: "It's in the black only with a fairly substantial subsidy from the general fund."

Through May 20, the city had spent $39,801 to run the cemetery in 2013.

Care and maintenance of Oak Grove Cemetery was ceded to Delaware after the independent board in charge of the site dissolved in September.

The Oak Grove Cemetery Board, which had controlled cemetery maintenance and operations since 1906, said running the site had become financially unsustainable.

Board Chairman Roger Van Sickle said rising maintenance costs and the growing number of families opting for cremation made it increasingly hard to balance the cemetery's books.

The board looked for other options, including fundraising, but finally opted to hand the reins to the city of Delaware in November.

The transfer was part of the original agreement created when the board assumed control of the cemetery, in case of such a financial emergency.

A sharp decrease in burials hit the cemetery hard in recent years. More than 40 percent of families nationwide are choosing to cremate loved ones instead, and many are keeping the remains or spreading them in a special location.

The decline in revenue was coupled with an increase in costs for the cemetery, which is the largest in Delaware County at nearly 80 acres. The cemetery board faced increases in workers' wages, insurance costs, paving costs and more, officials said.

To cope, the board deferred the cost of replacement equipment and froze wages for some workers before finally dissolving.

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