Delaware News

Delaware working on cemetery's to-do list

City's playing catch-up with maintenance after first full year in charge at Oak Grove

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Lorraine Fleming, an Army veteran and member of the Delaware County Veterans Association, bows her head as the Rev. Dwight Cimino prays during the Wreaths Across America event, held Dec. 14 at Oak Grove Cemetery. Wreaths were placed on the graves of all 97 veterans buried at the cemetery. It's the first time Delaware has participated in the nationwide event, started in 2007.
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By ThisWeek Community News  • 

As it wraps up its first full year in the cemetery business, the city of Delaware's administration has proposed spending more on staff and equipment at Oak Grove Cemetery in 2014.

The almost 80-acre cemetery -- the largest in Delaware County -- was independently operated from 1906 until Sept. 27, 2012, when the cemetery's board voted to dissolve because of ongoing financial difficulties. Board members said at the time that rising maintenance costs and the growing number of people opting for cremation instead of burial led to the decision.

When the board originally took over the South Sandusky Street cemetery, an agreement was struck allowing the city of Delaware to take control of the cemetery if the board ran into financial trouble.

Delaware City Manager Tom Homan said the city, specifically the public works department, has been "very active" in taking care of the cemetery grounds.

"I think the transition has gone very, very smoothly," Homan said.

He said the city's decision to hire Carolyn Ringley, former office manager for the cemetery, as a financial specialist to assist in the cemetery's operation has helped the transition effort.

He said the city also is looking to hire a new facility supervisor who would oversee work crews at the cemetery. According to the city's website, the position would pay between $18.45 and $21.58 hourly.

When the city took over the cemetery, it inherited a list of maintenance problems the cemetery board did not have funding to take care of, such as dead trees that needed to be removed.

"There was a lot of work to do and work still remains," city spokesman Lee Yoakum said. "What we're doing now is taking care of some of those to-do (list) items."

In the balanced budget proposal put together by the city's administration, the city would continue to invest more resources in the cemetery in 2014. In the proposal, which has not yet been finalized and approved by Delaware City Council, the cemetery is projected to spend more than it takes in, with a $40,000 transfer from the city's general fund covering most of the additional expenses.

Cemetery revenue, from sale of spaces, interments and monument commissions, is projected to bring in $167,000, while expenditures are estimated at $225,836.

More than half of the projected expenditures will go toward paying two full-time employees, one permanent part-time employee and seasonal maintenance employees, with $116,622 budgeted for wages. The city projects it will spend more than double the amount it spent on wages for cemetery employees in 2013 with the addition of a facility supervisor and more hours for seasonal workers.

According to the proposal, the city also has budgeted for the purchase of equipment to be used at the cemetery for the first time since it took over operations. The administration has proposed spending $28,000 on a dump truck and $12,000 on a multipurpose vehicle in 2014.

Under the proposal, the city would also bump up the amount it pays for maintenance issues that require outside help, such as tree removal, monument repair and marker replacement. The administration has proposed budgeting $20,000 for those services in 2014, up $8,000 when compared with the amount spent in 2013.

Expenditures not covered by revenue or the transfer from the general fund would be paid for out of the cemetery fund balance, which is projected at $408,524 at the end of 2013.

Yoakum said that amount was bolstered by a one-time transfer of $327,591 to the city from cemetery board finalized in 2013.

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