Norwich Township trustees last week opted to consider requests to donate cemetery plots for the interment of indigent veterans on a case-by-case basis.

Norwich Township trustees last week opted to consider requests to donate cemetery plots for the interment of indigent veterans on a case-by-case basis.

In doing so, they turned down a request from American Legion Memorial Post 614 to deed the veterans' organization 36 plots in Wesley Chapel Cemetery to bury such veterans.

The trustees expressed concern about deeding the plots to the American Legion, citing uncertainty about how the township could recover ownership if the Legion ever ceased to exist as an organization.

Bill Ihrig, commander of American Legion Memorial Post 614, asked the trustees Aug. 7 for 36 plots to continue the Legion's practice of providing them for indigent veterans. In 1978 or 1979, the American Legion requested and received 54 plots, of which four remain.

However, plots apparently never were deeded to the American Legion, said Steve Montgomery, street superintendent and cemetery sexton for Norwich Township. American Legion officers and Norwich Township officials surmised the provision of the 54 plots simply had amounted to a gentleman's agreement because meeting minutes show no official record of it.

Norwich Township Fiscal Officer Jamie Miles, at a planning session held prior to the Aug. 21 trustees meeting, said it would not be a good business practice to deed the 36 plots.

Trustee Chuck Buck concurred.

"I don't think we should deed the plots," he said.

Trustee Chairman Larry Earman said the township has "other ways for us to take care of our indigent veterans," which could include providing plots when necessary.

During the official business meeting, the three trustees voted unanimously to reserve the American Legion's remaining four plots for indigent veterans, stipulating that any such veteran must have been honorably discharged and lived in Hilliard or Norwich Township.

Those previously interred had been honorably discharged, but did not necessarily live in Hilliard or Norwich Township at the time of death. Neither requirement was binding until the Aug. 21 action of trustees.

In other business, trustees further discussed maintenance of the Hart family cemetery, a private cemetery of 22 plots dating back to the mid-19th century.

The cemetery now is on private property owned by GTS Real Estate Venture, 3690 Lacon Road. It was acquired for $1.1 million in February 2005, according to records from the Franklin County Auditor's Office. The cemetery is west of the rail line that passes behind Beacon Elementary School, 3600 Lacon Road.

The township trustees did not know how a family cemetery apparently was included in multiple private real estate transactions, and they opined family members or real-estate agents should have taken measures to prevent it. However, they are inquiring whose responsibility it is to maintain the cemetery, which currently is said to be in disrepair.

The trustees were unaware of the cemetery, which appears only on some maps, until Thelma Allemang, 91, the last local descendant of those interred there, inquired about it Aug. 7.

Township Administrator Kate Cavanaugh advised trustees the plot is in the city of Hilliard, not Norwich Township.

It is generally the responsibility of the property owner to maintain a cemetery, unless there is a specific provision in the deed relieving the property of that responsibility.

Because the property is in Hilliard, the township will not pay for a deed search; instead, the trustees directed Cavanaugh to contact the property owner to inquire if there is an exception.

Otherwise, the trustees surmised, the property owner is responsible for its maintenance of the cemetery, if not providing access. They said access to the cemetery would be a private matter between the property owner and those seeking access.

Also at the Aug. 21 meeting, the trustees adopted a policy to provide cemetery plots, free of charge, to employees of the township with at least 15 years of service.

Opening and closing costs of the plots would apply.