August 15, 2012 - Cemeteries exist to provide comfort for the living and a final resting place for the dead.
With that in mind, the Oxford Township Board last week voted 5-1 to make improvements to the community's public cemeteries in an amount not to exceed $180,295. A list of the proposed work and costs can be found in the shaded box to the right.
"All these projects will be bid out and presented to the township board for their blessing," said Supervisor Bill Dunn.
The money will come from the cemetery maintenance fund, which contains approximately $200,000. Of that, $100,000 was allocated to the fund just last month from the township's 2011 budget surplus.
Dunn assured the board that he believes the entire cemetery project will cost less than the approved amount.
"I don't think we're going to spend $150,000," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'm going to try to target (the spending) to leave $50,000 (in the cemetery maintenance fund)."
Trustee Mike Spisz expressed his concern that the project list contained nothing about repairing some of the cemetery's decaying retaining walls.
At the July 11 township board meeting, Dunn reported, "We have probably (at least) 50 different plots that need to be upgraded because if they're not, we're going to have bodies falling out."
Those burial plots are being held in place by retaining walls made of either old stone, brick or block. Some of them are now crumbling and in pretty poor shape.
"I would like to see us focus on the structural stuff first, and then come back to some of these (improvements)," Spisz said. "Because a lot of these things are nice to have, but they're not necessarily needs."
Dunn explained that plans to fix the retaining walls are already underway.
"We have authorized our sexton to do one of the repairs," he said. "We have two (retaining walls) that are in dire need of getting fixed. They will cost (under $10,000)."
As for any other retaining walls that might be in need of repair, Clerk Curtis Wright, who chairs the cemetery committee, suggested doing an "audit" of them and bringing the findings back to the township board.
"There's a couple on there that we'll need board direction whether you want it to resemble what's already there or resemble some of the ones that have been (reconstructed)," he said. "There's some that have stones that you would probably need a stone mason (to fix)."
Following the meeting, an audit was conducted and it was determined there are approximately 23 retaining walls, ranging in height from one to five feet, in need of repair, according to Wright.
Dunn assured the board the structural repairs will be given top priority. "We'll make note of that and make sure that we do the structural stuff first," he said.
The supervisor noted that one improvement that cemetery visitors will appreciate are the additions and upgrades to the water systems, which will allow folks to feed the flowers and plants around their loved ones' graves.
Dunn explained how new water spigots will be placed in various spots around the cemeteries. "We tried to put them in areas where (they're) going to be easily accessed by anyone in the cemetery," he said.
At the Mt. Pleasant and North Oxford cemeteries, underground wells will be dug and water distribution lines will be installed. At the Burdick Street cemetery, on the north and south sides, new water lines will be installed.
Dunn noted how the cemetery water system on the north side of Burdick Street has been a problem for a while now because it was installed many, many years ago and consists of galvanized pipes instead of plastic, which is the preferred material these days.
"Every year, we have major breaks in the line (and) we have to go out there," he said. "It's really in bad shape."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.