Pottstown Council

Published news about appointments and actions

Pottstown fills council seat, other vacancies

Trenita Lindsay is the new Pottstown Borough Council member representing the Fourth Ward.

By Evan Brandt, The Mercury

Posted: 06/12/18, 4:50 PM EDT | Updated: on 06/13/2018

POTTSTOWN >> Borough council filled numerous vacancies on boards and commissions Monday, including one of its own.

Trenita Lindsay was chosen from among four applicants as the new council member for the Fourth Ward, which was vacated last month by Dennis Arms.

The vote was not unanimous.

Councilman Ryan Procsal said while he thought Lindsay was a fine candidate, that the financial background of Philip Smock — the other applicant who showed up at last week’s council meeting to be interviewed — might better the serve the borough as it tries to figure out how to deal with the spiraling property assessment challenges eroding the tax base — and Pottstown’s primary revenue stream.

He and Weand voted against Lindsay’s appointment, which was made by Councilman Joe Kirkland and seconded by Councilwoman Rita Paez.

The other two applicants were Angela Kearney and Ken Supinski Jr.

The next appointment was to the single vacancy on the newly formed Land Bank Board.

In April, when the rest of the appointments were made, the board had voted unanimously to reject the appointment of Twila Fisher to the Land Bank board.

The director of economic development for The Hill School who head up the school’s Hobart’s Run initiative, Fisher was among those consulted on the formation of the board.

However, twice former council member Sheryl Miller, who was also involved in the formation of the board, spoke out against Fisher’s appointment, saying it is a conflict of interest for Fisher to serve because Hobart’s Run is involved in the purchase and renovation of property, and the Land Bank could be used for its benefit.

However Councilman Procsal said he had spoken with Fisher and was convinced it would not be a problem. Council President Dan Weand noted she had served on a previous land bank board in Berks County.

The 4-2 vote to appoint her came only after Kirkland had proposed the appointment of Madison Morton to the board, a motion that was defeated by the same 4-2 vote margin.

Then it was time to decide on two open seats on the board of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority.

The board followed the request of Executive Director Sheila Dugan and appointed Pamela Gormesh to one of the seats. Gormesh had been previously interviewed by the board and recommended for appointment.

Three others have applied for the second seat — Gabrielle Davidheiser — who also has already been interviewed, and Thomas Hylton and Steve Everett, who have not been interviewed.

At Dugan’s request, council tabled the vote on the second vacancy until its meeting in July to allow time for Hylton and Everett to be interviewed.

There were two applicants for a vacant seat on the planning commission — Hylton and Andrew Monastra.

Procsal said he knew the planning commission members, and several members of council, were leaning toward Monastra for the appointment. But he noted that Monastra is already serving on the Land Bank Board and the Historic Architecture Review Board.

He also noted that Hylton came to the June 11 meeting to speak, reminding council that he had previously served for 12 years, many as chairman, and that he and Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. had penned the borough’s zoning ordinance which “favors traditional towns.”

Only Councilwoman Rita Paez ended up voting against Hylton’s appointment. But the choice may have been moot.

After borough council went into an executive session, Deb Penrod, the planning commission chairperson, said she had that night submitted her resignation.

Penrod, who is on the Land Bank board as well as the Pottstown Regional Public Library Board of Trustees, said she has too many responsibilities and does not know as much about planning as Hylton. She suggested Monastra would work well with Hylton.

And when council came out of that executive session it laid the groundwork for one more appointment.

Council voted to change the provision of the borough manager’s ordinance that requires the manager to live in the borough, leaving the matter “the discretion of council,” as Garner described it.

Council also voted to extend Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller’s contract, which expires at the end of the month, by another 30 days.

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Edgewood Cemetery

From an original Facebook post July-August 2018

Saturday, July 28, 2018 1100 – Posted and boosted for 2 days 7/28/2018 12:55 PM

The Strange Case of Edgewood Cemetery

A serialized short story by William Collins

Part One

Like every story ever related, this one, too, is based on true events.  Edgewood Cemetery has exited in Pottstown, Pennsylvania ever since William and Rebecca Mintzer sold about five acres of their property to Edgewood Cemetery Company (Inc) in 1861, hence creating the cemetery itself and its governing body, the (still active) corporation.

This lengthy disclaimer should be kept in mind throughout.  I have not cut a single blade of grass nor pulled a single weed nor donated a single penny to the current voluntary effort to clean up and maintain the cemetery.  Those who have are to be commended for their efforts.

I have relatives buried in Edgewood Cemetery, but I possess no burial plot there nor do I intend to purchase any.  However, I live in the Ward that encompasses the cemetery itself and I pay taxes to the Borough of Pottstown.

The source material for this story was gleaned from newspaper accounts and submitted articles, official federal, state, county and local records, online and printed newsletters and publications, library and societal records, lore and recollection.

“In the beginning there were the deceased.  There was the ancient custom of preservation and ceremonial burial of those deceased.  There was a need for a place to inter them.”

And then, there is this – a possible conclusion given first.

The laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania governing Boroughs, Burial Grounds and Cemeteries are specific and flexible as concerns cemeteries.  Under certain circumstances, local governments may determine a cemetery within or adjacent to its borders, which has through age and/or attrition, become a detriment to the community, acquire said cemetery as its own.  Thereafter the local government can retain and maintain the cemetery OR decree ownership of the cemetery to any other entity of its choice.  Following that, the new owner can: (1) continue operating the cemetery as originally intended, OR; (2) discontinue operating the cemetery as a cemetery business after having honored still existing plot owners’ wishes or by negotiating other solutions, AND; (3) reorganize the cemetery and relocate graves in order to create ‘cleared’ real property that after due process can be subdivided, developed, and/or sold for profit.

The last two options are my reasons for concern.  Edgewood Cemetery Company and its real property are prime targets for such an outcome.

© July 2018 – William Collins

[To be continued…]

Sunday, July 29, 2018 1045 [Posted about 1400]

The Strange Case of Edgewood Cemetery
A serialized short story by William Collins

Part Two

A reader posted the following comment about Part One of this series: “Get to the point.”

My response was to copy and paste one of the final lines of Part One: “The last two options are my reasons for concern.”  That is to say that a new owner COULD reorganize the cemetery, and/or relocated graves and/or subdivide the property and/or develop and/or sell portions of it for profit.

This is not fear-mongering.  It is simply a reminder of the potential outcome if the cemetery’s ownership is granted to a third party.  At 12.8 acres, the cemetery is prime real estate (in the vicinity of the Hill School) in the heart of Pottstown.  Additionally, much of the cemetery has not (yet) been used for actual graves.

This ‘potential’ outcome is part of what I wished to present to the Council of the Borough of Pottstown at its August 8, 2018 Meeting of the Whole.  I went through the proper channels, outlined the reason for my request, and then submitting it via email to the borough secretary as recommended.  The subsequent email reply from the borough secretary included this text:

“On behalf of the Manager and Council President, please be advised that a presentation will not be listed on the agenda…”

No explanation was given for rejecting my request.

During my initial conversation with the borough secretary I asked related questions about the status of the cemetery issue within the purview of the Borough Council as concerns the property’s eventual ownership.  In fairness, this was a casual, after-thought conversation with the borough secretary (who had been very helpful and professional).  She indicated that, as far as she knew, no decision on the matter had yet been made.

But, time is running out.  As I see it, it’s only a matter of time – and not necessarily a very long time – before the decision concerning ownership of Edgewood Cemetery WILL be made.  I consider this to be an urgent matter and another reason why I wanted to address the Borough Council.

It would seem that neither the Borough of Pottstown nor the Hill School want to be in the cemetery business.  In so many words, I was told that by Hill officials.  I contacted my 6th Ward Councilor to discuss this, but my call was not returned.

Recently, it was explained to me that when the cemetery started to become neglected, an individual associated with the Hill contributed funds anonymously for the cemetery’s maintenance.  The donor subsequently discontinued the contributions, but would likely resume if a viable solution for the cemetery’s future was in place.  [In the local newspaper it was reported that the Borough of Pottstown had taken a similar position – The Mercury, August 17, 2015].  The Hill School itself continues to make monetary contributions to Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc.

From the same Mercury report of August 17, 2015, the following appeared.

“An interim six-member committee has been formed into a corporation named “the Edgewood Historic Cemetery” whose purpose is to handle immediate maintenance as well as prepare the way for a transfer of the property.

“The members of the committee are Randal S. Doaty, Ralph Schultz, Nathan Hall, Andrew Monastra, Emile Saunders Mazepa and Marcia Levengood.”

Creating a corporation to be in the position to inherit Edgewood Cemetery at such time as the Borough of Pottstown has possession and authority to give the property away is putting the cart before the horse; and of course, I disagree with that approach.

I would like to see either the Borough of Pottstown, or more appropriately, the Hill School become the owner responsible for Edgewood Cemetery’s preservation and maintenance in perpetuity.  The disinterest on their part seems to be to the business of being in the cemetery business.

Well, neither has to be in the cemetery business at all.  As explained in Part One, the cemetery can cease operations as a cemetery business so long as certain conditions are met.  Once the cemetery is no longer a cemetery business, it becomes a property with only the need to be properly maintained and provide access for visitors.

And concerning future interments necessitated by existing plot deeds, the particulars and related expenses are usually handled by a burial vault company and the funeral director dealing with the deceased’s survivors.

The Borough of Pottstown could be awarded ownership at any time.  If the Council doesn’t want to be responsible for making the decision to retain it as a Borough owned, public property, a simple ballot question asking the taxpayers IF they (the taxpayers) want to support the cemetery with their tax revenues would settle the matter.  In my opinion, this is what should be done.  IF…

The Hill continues to want to remain on the sidelines.  In my opinion, for the Hill to do so is a mistake and shortsightedness on their part.  The Hill could call it part of its Hobart’s Run initiative, phase it out as a cemetery business, maintain it along with the 50+ other properties it owns and maintains in Pottstown (the Hill’s already in the business of property management), and improve their image as a community-minded contributor to the preservation and beautification of its surrounds; I.e. Edgewood Cemetery.

And here’s yet another opinion: Compared to the two previous outlined solutions, to award Edgewood Cemetery Company and its property to a corporation created to inherit and maintain it via voluntarily contributed funds (in spite of the Hill’s largess) is to risk the current scenario’s recurrence – again and again.  Voluntary contributions and the diligence of committee members tend to fade away over time.

If you agree, pass the word.  Maybe somebody will pay attention to you.  They’ve chosen to ignore me.

© July 2018 – William Collins

Wednesday, August 01, 2018 2359 – Historical Society

The Strange Case of Edgewood Cemetery
A serialized short story by William Collins

Part Three

In addition to the interesting place that Edgewood Cemetery is, there is an equally interesting and enlightening little gem a few blocks west on the opposite side of High Street.  The Pottstown Historical Society is its name and it is the repository of some amazing documents, maps and books about Pottstown and its history.  I spent a pleasant afternoon reading one very fascinating volume, the handwritten minutes of Edgewood Cemetery Company.  I paused from time to time to chat with the very helpful and resourceful staff.

If you have any interest in the history or your town at all, I highly recommend becoming a member of the Society.  You’ll be glad you did.  Even just to chat with those folks is inspiring and enjoyable.  See https://phspa.org/ for more.

The following is a mixture of what I’ve learned about the cemetery from other sources as well as from perusing that rather well-preserved Minutes book the Society has in its collection.  This commentary (Part Three) is factual, anecdotal and possibly even amusing.

From the copy of the deed record for Edgewood Cemetery Company that I obtained from Montgomery County’s Recorder of Deeds, it seems that William Mintzer (the grantor) was not married at the time he purchased land from Jonas Smith; land (or part thereof) that would later become the original 5 acres (plus/minus) sold to Edgewood Cemetery Company (Inc).  The reason I say this is because at the time of the sale to the cemetery corporation, he was married to Rebecca Mintzer.   Since she was required to attest that she was entering into the agreement of sale on her own free will, and was not coerced in any way, we can conclude that William was not married when he made the deal with Jonas Smith.

The original Charter for the cemetery stipulated that the cemetery corporation would be limited in size to “not more than 10 acres.”  At about 5 acres, the original land area was well within that limitation.  However, on July 1, 1885, at a Special Meeting the officers of the corporation agreed to purchase “…from the estate of J Potts & Co an addition to the Edgewood Cemetery Co., of about 7-1/2 acres of ground at $440.00 per acre.”  This action was completed at the following Special Meeting on July 13, 1885.

But, because the corporation’s original charter specified a limitation of about 10 acres for the cemetery, this purchase of additional land had (technically) violated that stipulation.  Hence the Board of Managers (as they called themselves) held another Special Meeting on August 1, 1885, to amend the Charter to expand the size of the cemetery to 15 acres.  The Minutes read, ”…strike out the word ten and insert the word fifteen.”  These actions were (and are) important, because…

For a while, Edgewood Cemetery Company has been referred to in print and in conversation as an orphan cemetery.  There has also been the suggestion that its land area is not clearly defined and properly deeded.  It is my belief that these two entries in the official record of the corporations Minutes tend to put to rest any mystery about the cemetery’s original size of about 5 acres, and its subsequent expansion by about 7-1/2 acres, resulting in its current size of about 12.8 acres.  There is a clear and continuous thread from the time of Edgewood Cemetery Company’s incorporation (inception) to its present day configuration as a STILL ACTIVE Pennsylvania corporation and owner of contiguous land first and lastly and collectively known as Edgewood Cemetery.

On a lighter note (well, sort of), there are more than a few entries later on in the history of the cemetery about a certain Treasurer who absconded with $300 of the cemetery’s money.  The officials tried for about five years to get him to pay the money back.  He apparently moved out of town, but his son remained.  The cemetery board tried to get his son to clear the debt, but the son claimed poverty.  I didn’t read enough to learn the conclusion to this fiasco.  I’m guessing the cemetery board eventually wrote it off.

© August 2018 – William Collins

Tuesday, August 07, 2018 1640

The Strange Case of Edgewood Cemetery – Part Four [Unabridged]

In order to present an alternative point of view concerning Edgewood Cemetery, I made a formal request to be added to the agenda for the Borough’s Meeting of the Whole scheduled for August 8, 2018.

My request was denied.  No explanation was given for its rejection.

However, the meeting’s agenda has since been posted on the Borough’s website and the number of items to be discussed at the meeting is lengthy.  I’ll give the interim Borough Manager and Council President the benefit of the doubt concerning their decision to disallow my request.  Even so, an explanation would have been appropriate.

But, because no reason was given, I inquired of the Mayor, The Honorable Stephanie Henrick, via email for an answer.  She replied promptly, indicated that she would investigate, and asked me to let her know if I didn’t hear from the Borough Manager or Secretary “by the end of the week.”   The Mayor also thanked me for my “well thought out arguments regarding the cemetery.”

As of this writing, I’ve received no reply from the Borough Manager nor from the Borough Secretary.

My original email message to Mayor Henrick (her reference above) included the following text.

“My concern is realistic and straightforward.  The creation of a similarly named corporation, Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc., and the solicitation of tax-deductible contributions for the benefit of Edgewood Cemetery Company, which Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc. does not own, tends to confuse and muddle a problem that’s been around for years.  That is, the Borough of Pottstown and The Hill School don’t want to be in the cemetery business.  The Hill has exacerbated the problem by making significant contributions to Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc., which in turn seeds that enterprise’s coffers and girds its reason for existing.  In the end, The Hill School itself should step up and take ownership and the responsibility for Edgewood Cemetery Company.  The Hill has a long history of being involved.  To step away now is just bad form, especially in view of the stated intent of their Hobart’s Run initiative.

Sooner or later the Borough of Pottstown will be authorized (probably by a ruling from the Montgomery County courts) to take possession of the cemetery – at least temporarily.  When that happens, the Borough of Pottstown and its taxpayers will own the cemetery.  The cemetery has an assessed value on Montgomery County deed records of about $750,000.

Should the Council of the Borough of Pottstown arbitrarily decide to grant ownership of the cemetery to the paper corporation named Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc., and very likely for little or no compensation, in my view, that would be a breach of public trust, constitute questionable gifting of public property to… Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc., and would shirk its duties as Council to determine a more equitable solution to the Edgewood Cemetery problem.

The laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provide great latitude for owners of burial grounds and cemeteries.  For example, owners of cemeteries can completely reorganize and reconfigure the layout; can cease offering plots for purchase, can relocate graves, offer current deed holders alternative locations (within reason), and possibly even subdivide the property itself.

If Edgewood Cemetery were to be reorganized and reconfigured in a certain way in order to free its large northern section (along Beech Street), it is not beyond imagination to expect future requests to the Borough to allow division and/or development in that portion.

Of course, if the owner of the cemetery is able to convert large swathes of the cemetery into property which can be developed, especially if the new owner had acquired the cemetery for little or nothing, it would become a windfall – to the taxpayers’ chagrin.

In other words, once a new owner takes over, the fate and future of the cemetery is unknown and uncertain, and could lead to many unwanted and undesirable outcomes…”

The Mayor subsequently followed up and asked if I had received a reply, which I had not.  In answering, I included this additional text.

“My original message to you included much information about the Edgewood Cemetery Company issue.  But there is much more.  To that end, and in consideration of the likely possibility that I will not be granted the opportunity to present the following to the Council at one of its meetings, all members and the Borough Secretary are being informed by copy of this correspondence…

Briefly, here is what I had hoped to bring to the Council’s attention:

  • Edgewood Cemetery Company is an active Pennsylvania corporation whose property (the cemetery grounds itself) is clearly and properly deeded in two entries in the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds’ archive.  The first entry is for about 5 acres for the creation of the cemetery in 1861.  The second entry was to record the cemetery’s expansion by about 7-1/2 acres in 1885.  Subsequent records show the current total land area as 12.8 acres.
  • Edgewood Cemetery AS A CEMETERY BUSINESS has failed.  Its persons responsible have abandoned their responsibilities.
  • The Borough of Pottstown has several valid reasons and legitimate avenues for acquiring the Edgewood Cemetery Company – both the corporation and its property.
  • It is impractical and unrealistic to believe that the cemetery AS A CEMETERY BUSINESS can be returned to profitability under any recovery plan or volunteer program.
  • If, and likely when, the Borough acquires the corporation and its property, it will become public property technically owned by the Borough’s taxpayers.
  • The Borough can through the creation of an Edgewood Cemetery Authority, cease running the cemetery as a business, and can designate all or portions of the property as open space.
  • The taxpayers should be given the opportunity to approve retention of the cemetery by the Borough via a simple ballot question.  Such question should clearly identify the intent of the property’s use as a combined ‘preserved existing cemetery’ and ‘public open space to be used for passive recreation.’
  • Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc. (and not, Edgewood Cemetery Company) is a separate corporation which has no legitimate connection to Edgewood Cemetery Company whatsoever.  Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc. was created at the behest of the Hill School in an attempt to remove itself from the cemetery issue.  Although Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc.’s solicitation of tax deductible contributions is allowed, and its efforts to enlist volunteers to maintain the cemetery grounds cosmetically are both admirable, those actions/activities have nothing to do with the question to the Council of how to resolve the primary issue; that is, ownership and preservation of the cemetery as a cemetery (and not as a business).  Holders of burial plots would retain the right to inter.  The carrying out of, and compensation for interment would become the responsibility of the burial vault company and funeral director, and not that of the Borough of Pottstown.
  • As an opinion, the existence of Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc., its activities, and the Hill School’s contribution to it only tend to confuse and muddle this issue.  I strongly recommend against recognizing Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc. as a possible owner and/or solution to the Edgewood Cemetery problem.  It is essentially a volunteer organization funded by contributions that could eventually fade.  The possibility of converting parts of the property to realize funds to sustain the cemetery would be repugnant and disrespectful of the dead and their mourners.

I have acquired through diligent searching and researching (and at times, personal expense) ample documentation to support all of my claims and arguments.  It’s a wealth of information which should be brought to light (of the Council), seriously considered, and then acted upon with due diligence…”

Actually, the Borough of Pottstown’s only obligations, should it gain and retain ownership of the cemetery on behalf of the town and its taxpayers, would be to cut the grass in summer and plow the driveways in winter as a responsibility of a newly created Edgewood Cemetery Authority.

Footnote: The second of my two messages to Mayor Henrick was distributed to all council members, the interim manager, and the secretary.  As of this writing, there have been no responses.

© August 2018 – William Collins

Tuesday, August 07, 2018 1640 – Abridged and Boosted Wednesday, August 08, 2018 1200

The Strange Case of Edgewood Cemetery – Part Four [Abridged version.]

In order to present an alternative point of view concerning Edgewood Cemetery, I made a formal request to be added to the agenda for a board meeting scheduled for August 8, 2018.

My request was denied.  No explanation was given for its rejection.

Because no reason was given, I inquired of an official via email for an answer.  The prompt reply was helpful but the intervention proved fruitless.  However, I was thanked for my “well thought out arguments regarding the cemetery.”

My original email message included the following text – significantly edited for this version.

My concern is realistic and straightforward.  The creation of a similarly named corporation, Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc., and the solicitation of tax-deductible contributions for the benefit of Edgewood Cemetery Company, which Edgewood Historic Cemetery Inc. does not own, tends to confuse and muddle a problem that’s been around for years.  It seems that those in the best position to take over the cemetery, understandably, don’t want to be in the cemetery business.

Sooner or later local authority will take possession of the cemetery – at least temporarily.  When that happens, the community will technically own the cemetery.  The cemetery has an assessed value on deed records of about $725,000.

Should the board decide to grant ownership of the cemetery to the separate corporation named earlier, and very likely for little or no compensation, in my view, that would be a breach of public trust, constitute questionable gifting of public property to that entity and would shirk its duties to determine a more equitable solution to the Edgewood Cemetery problem.

The owners of burial grounds and cemeteries have great latitude.  For example, owners of cemeteries can completely reorganize and reconfigure the layout; can cease offering plots for purchase, can relocate graves, offer current deed holders alternative locations (within reason), and possibly even subdivide the property itself.

If Edgewood Cemetery under private ownership were to be reorganized and reconfigured in a certain way in order to free its large northern section, it is not beyond imagination to expect future requests to the local authorities to allow division and/or development in that portion.

Of course, if the owner of the cemetery is able to convert large swathes of the cemetery into property which can be developed, especially if the new owner had acquired the cemetery for little or nothing, it would become a windfall – to the locals’ chagrin.

In other words, once a new owner takes over, the fate and future of the cemetery is unknown and uncertain, and could lead to many unwanted and undesirable outcomes.

There was a follow-up exchange of emails with the official mentioned above, which included this additional text – again, edited for this version.

My original message to you included much information about the Edgewood Cemetery Company issue.  But there is much more.  To that end, and in consideration of the likely possibility that I will not be granted the opportunity to present the following information, the others involved in decision-making are being informed by copy of this correspondence.

Briefly, here is what I had hoped to bring to everyone’s attention:

  • Edgewood Cemetery Company is an active corporation whose property (the cemetery grounds itself) is clearly and properly deeded in two entries in county records.  The first entry is for about 5 acres for the creation of the cemetery in 1861.  The second entry was to record the cemetery’s expansion by about 7-1/2 acres in 1885.  Subsequent records show the current total land area as 12.8 acres.
  • Edgewood Cemetery AS A CEMETERY BUSINESS has failed.  Its persons responsible have abandoned their responsibilities.
  • The local authority has several valid reasons and legitimate avenues for acquiring the Edgewood Cemetery Company – both the corporation and its property.
  • It is impractical and unrealistic to believe that the cemetery AS A CEMETERY BUSINESS can be returned to profitability under any recovery plan or volunteer program.
  • If, and likely when, the local authority acquires the corporation and its property, it will become public property technically owned by the residents.
  • The local authority can through the creation of an Authority, cease running the cemetery as a business, and can designate portions of the property as open space.
  • The citizens should be given the opportunity to approve retention of the cemetery.  Such question should clearly identify the intent of the property’s use as a combined ‘preserved existing cemetery’ and ‘public open space to be used for passive recreation.’
  • The alternative entity (and not, Edgewood Cemetery Company) is a separate corporation which has no legitimate connection to the cemetery whatsoever.  Although solicitation of tax deductible contributions is allowed, and its efforts to enlist volunteers to maintain the cemetery grounds cosmetically are both admirable, those actions/activities have nothing to do with the question of how to resolve the primary issue; that is, ownership and preservation of the cemetery as a cemetery (and not as a business).
  • Under local ownership, holders of burial plots would retain the right to inter.  The carrying out of, and compensation for interment would become the responsibility of the burial vault company and funeral director.
  • As an opinion, the existence of the alternative corporation, its activities, and the local benefactor’s contribution to it only tend to confuse and muddle this issue.  I strongly recommend against recognizing any volunteer enterprise as a possible owner and/or solution to the Edgewood Cemetery problem.  Essentially, volunteer organizations funded by contributions could eventually fade, and this problem would recur.  The possibility of converting parts of the property to realize funds to sustain itself is ill-advised.

I have acquired through diligent searching and researching (and at times, personal expense) ample documentation to support all of my claims and arguments.  It’s a wealth of information which should be brought to light, seriously considered, and then acted upon with due diligence.

Actually, the local authority’s only obligations, should it gain and retain ownership of the cemetery on behalf of the town’s people, would be to cut the grass in summer and plow the driveways in winter.

© August 2018 – William Collins

Friday, August 24, 2018 1125

The Strange Case of Edgewood Cemetery – Part Five

Writing fiction is great fun.  You take a couple of real facts and events from your recollection, mix in some fabrications and add a little imagination, and – Voila! – you have fiction.  The following text between the markers (the two asterisks), is fiction.

**

A couple of years ago a graduate of the local and world-famous prep school, who went on to become very successful and modestly rich, returned to the campus with friends and relatives to show them where she had learned the skills that made her successful.  Part of the visitation tour included a walk to the adjacent cemetery to view the final resting places of the prep school’s founder and other persons of interest.

The graduate was horrified and embarrassed by the run-down, deteriorated condition of the cemetery.  The visitors were quietly appalled.  But both thought, “How could a town and a prestigious school such as theirs, allow the solemn grounds of a cemetery, an historic community cemetery within their midst, to become such an unsightly tragedy?”

The group’s visit to the prep school concluded and the individuals eventually returned to their respective localities.  The prep school graduate, still feeling the burn of having been embarrassed, contacted the school and offered funds to be used to clean up and restore the cemetery to a presentable state.  Officials at the prep school complied.  The cemetery’s sad state was corrected – at times with the help of volunteer students and locals who even recreated records to identify those interred along with their grave locations.

So the problem was fixed – well, temporarily.  After a couple of cycles of funding and fixing, the donor, who wished to remain anonymous, realized that she might be on the hook to permanently subsidize the cemetery’s upkeep.  Hence, she gave notice to the prep school that they should come up with a better, more permanent and community-minded solution.  Again, the prep school complied, but this time with a twist.

The prep school officials determined that the best solution for everyone would be for the school to excuse itself from responsibility as well as the ongoing obligation to maintain the cemetery as the generous alumna desired.  They would call on a few local citizens to create an entity to do their bidding.  The cemetery, after all, was not the prep school’s property, nor its responsibility.  Everyone knew that the cemetery had long been abandoned by those in charge and that nothing was left in the cemetery corporation’s till to pay for its upkeep.  The cemetery’s fate, in short, was an unfortunate circumstance, but was not the prep school’s problem.

In spinning the problem off to something that could be boasted as a community initiative, the prep school gathered several local citizen volunteers and gave them the mission to assume responsibility for the cemetery’s fate.  That spinoff was given a fictitious similar name to that of the existing cemetery, but the spinoff entity actually had no connection to the real cemetery whatsoever.

Additionally, the prep school, to sweeten the deal and to render itself a generous benefactor in the eyes of the public, would contribute funds of its own to ‘seed’ the new entity.

Unfortunately, the committee of volunteers and the principal driver behind incorporating the spinoff (and obtaining tax exempt status for donations solicited) didn’t see eye-to-eye.  Most committee members abandoned the paper corporation, leaving it to be led and controlled almost exclusively by the individual who filed the entity’s applications for incorporation with the state’s Department of State, and as a Nonprofit Corporation with the Federal government.

At last report, the entity created to rescue the cemetery has only one named official – the one who filed the paperwork.  It has no known officers (well, one, perhaps), no known staff, no known accountant, no known published reports, and of course, no known reason to be accountable to anyone.  But also at last report, donations continue to be received on behalf of a cemetery it doesn’t own and for which it has no official responsibility or authority.

The cemetery, if it could speak, is probably waiting for either the local town or the prep school to step up, and in doing so, inherit the tax deductible funds already donated on its behalf.

**

But, of course, this is all fiction.

© August 2018 – William Collins