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Town to take over cemetery responsibilities

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CARTHAGE — Like it or not, the town of Wilna may soon be in the cemetery business.

The Town Council has agreed to take control of the Sand Hill Cemetery in Natural Bridge and may also take on responsibilities for the Pierce Cemetery on Fort Drum.

Alfreda Morgan, caretaker of the Sand Hill Cemetery, came before the board Monday to turn over records for the Route 3 cemetery. Mrs. Morgan, who met last month with town Supervisor Paul H. Smith, has been affiliated with the cemetery since 1961 and now wishes to retire.

“The main thing is, I just want to get rid of it,” Mrs. Morgan said. “I don’t have anyone in the cemetery. I never took one red cent for doing this but I’ve gone through pure hell many times.”

She said in the past her husband had dug the graves and she covered them up.

As requested after last month’s town council meeting, Mrs. Morgan provided a map she made of the cemetery. She noted the old part is basically full. She said Gilbert Smith donated the land and was the cemetery association’s first president.

“We had meetings and officers way back then,” she said.

Mrs. Morgan said she took over the finances of the association in 2000.

She said she has put funds in bank certificates of deposit and uses the interest for expenses such as lawn mowing four times a year and cleaning.

With no one to take her place, the cemetery would be abandoned and become the town’s responsibility.

“You don’t have an awful lot of choice in the matter,” town attorney Mark G. Gebo told the board. “The problem is it is an active cemetery. You will be responsible for selling plots and need to get organized.”

He noted other municipalities operate cemeteries to some degree and that the village of Philadelphia has set up a cemetery for use by its residents. Mr. Gebo said the board would have to decide whether to continue to sell plots in the new section or deal only with those which have already been sold. Mr. Gebo suggested the supervisor appoint a board member to research necessary steps and possibly appoint a non-board member to oversee the future operation of the cemetery. He said applications should be drafted for grave openings and closings. In addition, he said the board should develop bylaws and guidelines for uniform fees for services.

Mr. Smith said the town also may be taking over the responsibilities for the Pierce Cemetery on Fort Drum.

“Fort Drum took over ownership of town of Wilna property but not the cemetery,” Mr. Smith said. “If so, we’ll have to get permission to go on (post) to mow.”

Mr. Smith noted the Fort Drum cemetery was also active, with plots having been sold but not filled.

In related business, the board agreed to honor the request of Terry Countryman of Hillside Cemetery in Natural Bridge to share mowing responsibilities with the town of Diana. Wilna will pay to have the cemetery mowed once a year.

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