WILMINGTON — The cemetery committee of Wilmington council met Friday and considered the need for a master plan for future use and development of Sugar Grove Cemetery, as well as burial rates, internment of ashen remains, cemetery bridges and converting the chapel into a community space.
“We’ve got a lot of things happening out there, and we need to make sure that … Sugar Grove can be sustainable for a long time and making sure that everything can be taken care of and paid for,” said committee chair Jonathan McKay. “The cemetery is a wonderful thing that we have inherited, and we need to make sure that it is cared for.
“We owe this to the people that are buried out there and the families that are still around here to make sure that they get everything that they bargained for when they bought a plot in there,” McKay continued.
At another point in the meeting, McKay said two of the bridges were recently closed and a third was in poor shape after annual bridge inspections.
Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth said the two closed bridges could be repaired by city staff for about $5,000. The third, he said, would have to be replaced and would be more expensive.
McKay and committee members Joe Spicer and Matt Purkey asked Wilmington Safety and Service Director Brian Shidaker to begin reviewing what would be needed to repair and replace the bridges.
In the meantime, Shidaker said he’d probably place a chain link fence around the closed bridges. At least three people have moved the signs around the bridges and traveled over them anyway, he and McKay indicated. Purkey suggested a sign near the entrance to inform people that two of the bridges are closed.
The committee also considered a columbarium, an internment place for ashen remains.
McKay said a columbarium in Springboro has niches the size of file drawers for remains and charges $800 for the niche, $300 for opening and closing and $300 for engraving. Such a columbarium would allow the city to use the cemetery for a longer time.
Council President Randy Riley said former city service director Larry Reinsmith found building a 100-niche columbarium would cost about $100,000, including contracted labor. Riley said most of the work could be done by city employees.
Riley also said that about half of all deaths result in cremation, demonstrating need for a columbarium.
“I think it’s definitely worth looking at, and we can put it … right behind the old office,” McKay said, adding that it should be built to allow for expansion.
The committee also asked Wilmington Law Director Brett Rudduck if the office could be used as a chapel. Rudduck said some courts may disagree with that and suggested using more neutral language when creating that kind of community space.
The committee chose not to suggest to council that burial rates be raised.
“We need to be careful not to raise rates too much,” Spicer said. “I know we’ve got things we’ve got to look at it that we need to make sure we’re covered.”
Shidaker said the cemetery raised $133,000 in revenue and spent $123,000 since the city took ownership, not including one-time expenses.
More than $300,000 is also available from a perpetual care fund left from when the cemetery was privately held.
Additionally, McKay said a fund left by the Hale family and overseen by the Clinton County Foundation had about $432,000 generating less than $13,000 to more than $16,000 in interest to be paid to the cemetery. No payment was received in 2015, so the city may be able to receive that and a 2016 payment.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.