Berkshire Township officials say that, beginning this week, they will no longer care for or maintain the Galena Cemetery.
In a letter sent late last month to Galena village officials, the township’s trustees say they would hand over care and maintenance of the centuries-old cemetery on Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Township officials say they had hoped to hand the cemetery over through a smooth transition with both sides working together. However, according to the letter, that has not happened.
“To date we have received no cooperation from the village in designing a transition plan,” the letter reads.
Township officials have offered to “aid in the transition” for a period of 30 days, beginning Aug. 11.
Galena Mayor Tom Hopper said he was surprised to receive the letter.
“It’s basically a legal matter,” he said. “I was very surprised to get the letter because our attorney is working with their attorney.”
Village officials have disputed the ownership of the cemetery since March, when township officials said they had suddenly discovered a section of Ohio law that prevents them from spending taxpayer money on the cemetery because it is wholly located within Galena.
That opinion has been supported by the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Auditor’s Office, which said in a June letter that township trustees could be held liable and “ordered to pay into the general fund any money spent maintaining and operating” Galena Cemetery — if they don’t relinquish it to Galena.
Township officials estimate the care and maintenance of the cemetery costs up to $18,000 each year, money that Hopper says the village does not have. The village also lacks the equipment and manpower necessary to maintain the property, officials have said.
The discovery of the section of state law that prevents that township from spending public dollars on the cemetery came amid high tensions between the two entities.
Village officials have been researching a measure that would allow Galena to withdraw from the township, an action taken after two township residents tried to initiate a merger of the two political subdivisions.
The Galena Cemetery, located on Walnut Street, is one of two maintained by the township.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.