Ravenna trustees upset over cemetery decision

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Following the Nov. 4 failure of a cemetery levy, Ravenna Mayor

Paul Jones appointed four city employees to "assess Maple Grove Cemetery

and the problems associated with (it)."

Jones announced last month that cuts to the city's police and fire protection and "other essential programs" could result if Issue 5 failed.

"If the issue fails, there are going to be some major cutbacks around here," he said at that time. "A failure would injure an already shrinking balance in the general fund." Police and fire protection services require about 70 percent of the city's general fund.

"The mayor has put the fox in the hen-house," said Trustee Mel Cole. "Think about it. If you were the fire chief and you had to cut money from the cemetery or your own department, which would you choose? I don't like it one bit."

Ravenna Fire Chief Larry Shafer is a member of the appraisal group. He declined comment today.

Trustee Pat Artz echoed Cole's concern.

"My mother is buried in that cemetery," she said. "I don't want to be ashamed to have her there. The mayor's task force, however, is composed of people who would have an interest in trimming upkeep of the cemetery to preserve the budgets of their own departments."

"The entire purpose of formulating a Union Cemetery is to let our dead lay in dignity," Artz added. "I think this appointment is a slap in the face to the Union Cemetery Board which has worked so diligently to prepare an appropriate five-year plan."

The cemetery board is formed by Councilmen Mark Gabriel and Van Harkcom and Trustee Bob Cherry.

"The people we've appointed should serve as a resource to all parties concerned," Jones said this morning, referring to the survey team members. "They have years of experience and should allow us to discern the most cost-effective way to run the cemetery.

"The city is the major stockholder here, and with the failure of the levy, we simply need to ensure this kind of accountability," he said.

In addition to Shafer, the members of the survey team are Merrill Evans, chairman supervisor of Lake Hodgson; Dave Bosko, parks director; and Dave Stone, street superintendent. The average cemetery budget during the next four years is about $309,000 _ a figure which, due to necessary equipment expenditures, is higher than expected budgets for the years after 2001, Gabriel said.

The city will pay about 63 percent of the cemetery's operating fees through 2001 with the township paying the remainder in contributions derived from tax valuations, Cherry said.

On average, cemetery fees generate $55,000 annually, he said. This implies the city will spend about $160,000 and the township roughly $94,000 annually on the cemetery.

In addition to furnishing funds for the cemetery's maintenance and capital improvements, the levy would have helped the city meet about $60,000 in back payments it must supply the township in each of the next five years.

These payment's will cover the city's pro-rated share of the graveyard's annual operating costs since 1993, when the city and township legally separated.

In that year, Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph Kainrad ruled the city was solely responsible for the oversight of the North Chestnut Street cemetery. The city then presented its case to the 11th District Court of Appeals, which upheld Kainrad's ruling.

City and township officials signed a union cemetery agreement in February, putting to rest the lingering dispute over the graveyard's ownership.

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