Union Cemetery, North Creek
The town of Johnsburg has 13 town-maintained cemeteries. That’s a lot of grass to cut; too much for the town’s Buildings and Parks Department’s one full-time employee and one part-time employee.
The town has little control over the number of cemeteries it must maintain. As Deputy Town Clerk Jo Ann Smith explained to the Town Board at its meeting Tuesday, April 3, many of the cemeteries were long-ago abandoned by their original owners. By state law, the town is obligated to take care of them. That’s a situation that doesn’t sit well with some in the town.
“This cemetery thing needs some historical perspective,” said resident Bob Nessle. “They were private … generated by either churches or families … and the state in its infinite wisdom decided that the taxpayers had to pay to take care of them.”
Nessle suggested the town pass a law saying that any new cemeteries have to have a perpetual care fund set up so that the town doesn’t get stuck maintaining them at taxpayer expense.
Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow agreed that the situation is an unfortunate burden on the taxpayers of the town. But he said his goal Tuesday was to come up with a plan to keep the grass mowed this summer and not take on the state over its abandoned cemetery law.
Vanselow said it was critical that the town have a plan in place in time to get the grass cut before Memorial Day weekend when the cemeteries will see a relatively high number of visitors.
In past years, the town has employed a variety of methods, including contracting the job out to a private entity, using temporary summer help to cut the grass and utilizing town staff from the Building and Parks Department to do it.
Tuesday there was no shortage of ideas. Some suggested having town crews work at it and supplement their efforts with some part-time help, perhaps in the form of the town’s young people out of school for the summer. Others cautioned against that approach because of age restrictions for using power equipment.
Councilman Peter Olesheski suggested trying to arrange for residents from the Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility to work for the town during the summer cutting the grass.
Vanselow agreed that it could be a good idea and noted that all the residents at Moriah are non-violent offenders and have been used in other towns such as Minerva in past seasons to help with public works type projects.
“But I’m not sure I want to put all my eggs in that basket,” Vanselow said, explaining that he thought there likely wasn’t sufficient time to arrange it before Memorial Day. “I think there may be a list you’d have to get on.”
Councilman Gene Arsenault endorsed the notion of getting bids on what it would cost to have a contractor cut the grass.
“Let’s at least see what the prices are,” he said.
Councilwoman Kate Nightingale agreed that getting bids from a contractor was preferable than trying to hire the town’s young people.
“How are the kids going to get to the cemeteries with the equipment,” Nightingale asked. “Would (Building and Parks staffer) Matt (Olden) have to interrupt what he’s doing to go get them and bring them back?”
After much discussion, a consensus coalesced around the idea of hiring a private contractor.
“Bid it out for two times,” reasoned Jo Ann Smith. “Then Matt, if he had time, or if we had extra help, they could do it in between.”
The town budgeted $11,500 in its line item for cemetery maintenance, Vanselow told the board. He learned there could be more money available during a recent session he had with the town bookkeeper in which they reviewed various accounts. The money could be used to hire some temporary help to supplement the efforts of the mowing contractor the town eventually hires, Vanselow said.
A motion was put forth, and the board voted unanimously to solicit bids from contractors to mow the grass at all 13 cemeteries, once within two weeks before Memorial Day and a second time within two weeks before Labor Day.
In other business Tuesday, the Town Board opened responses to its “Request For Proposal” for the Main Street North Creek streetscape project. The town sent out eight proposal packets and received four proposals back by Tuesday’s deadline. Responding were Chazen Companies, Synthesis, The LA Group and Behan Design.
The Board scanned the proposals quickly and then voted to authorize Vanselow to share the proposals with Wayne LaMothe, Deputy Director of Planning and Community Development for Warren County. LaMothe helped create the “Request For Proposal,” and Vanselow said he’d like LaMothe’s input regarding the various proposals before the Board decides to whom it will award the bid.
The Town Board next meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 17 at Scout Hall, at the intersection of Route 8 and Peaceful Valley Road.