Keep Cemeteries In Good Repair

Cemeteries with the grass cut regularly and the shrubs trimmed carefully can lose their appeal quickly when roads through them become impassable or hillside slips threaten parts of them. Good for Martins Ferry City Council members for recognizing and doing something about that.

Martins Ferry’s Riverview Cemetery is in need of repairs, including some involving retaining walls. But that type of work can be expensive. How to pay for it?

About $180,000 is available in the cemetery’s endowment fund but, under a city ordinance, its use is restricted to “perpetual care” spending. That includes routine maintenance and beautification work.

Realizing the money is needed more for bigger, more critical projects, council members rescinded the endowment fund ordinance and have created a Cemetery Permanent Improvement Fund. That will allow use of the $180,000 for critical repairs.

It will not happen quickly, because city officials want to leave the money untouched for a year, to ensure the new arrangement is approved by the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

That is a wise precaution, but it also is a reminder that conditions at many old cemeteries have deteriorated. Some of them may have money tied up in situations such as that involving Riverview, with use of funds for major repairs illegal under sometimes generations-old agreements.

Ohioans who entrust the remains of loved ones to cemeteries, usually paying substantial sums to ensure “perpetual care,” have a right to expect their money will not be misused. Restrictions have a purpose, then.

Still, it may be a good idea for state legislators to take a look at the situation. If there are other cemeteries where state laws place unrealistic limits on how money in “perpetual care” accounts can be used, it may be prudent to provide more flexibility — with finances monitored closely to ensure funds are not spent improperly.

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