2011-05-21 / News

Trustees offered church, cemetery

By Scott Rawdon

UNION TOWNSHIP – Trustees were made an offer they can’t refuse – literally.

Larry Swain, executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio attended Monday night’s Union Township Trustees meeting to offer the trustees the abandoned church and possibly the active cemetery at the corner of Canyon and Beaver Run roads. Trustee Rick Black said the church and the cemetery are on the same parcel of property, and according to the Ohio Revised Code, a cemetery owner can abandon maintenance responsibility to the township if the owner is no longer able to maintain it. In other words, the township may have no legal choice but to take responsibility for the old church and the cemetery. Since the church has gravesites on its property, then the township would also be required to maintain the old church building.

The American Baptist Churches of Ohio used to own the now Union Township Complex, which was formerly a newer version of the Licking Baptist Church that the township purchased at a foreclosure auction. Trustee President John Slater emphasized has nothing to do with the township purchasing the Union Township Complex property.

“It’s just coincidence,” he said Wednesday. “We could’ve bought somewhere else 10 miles down the road and still have the same responsibility.”

Swain said Wednesday that neither the American Baptist Churches of Ohio nor trustees have made a decision about what to do with the property. “Monday night was merely a dialogue and discussion about the property,” he said. He said the Licking Cemetery Association currently maintains the active cemetery, but that organization may no longer be able to maintain the property, leaving the responsibility to the township. Currently, legal representation for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio and Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Austin Lecklider, representing the township, are discussing the situation.

“We’re trying not to agree to that,” said Slater, who would rather the township not take on the added responsibility, but he’s also aware there may be no choice in the matter. He’s awaiting the lawyers’ decision.

“We have no other church or entity showing interest in the building,” Swain told the trustees Monday night. “I guess it’s in your hands.” Swain said there’s nothing pressing the American Baptist Churches of Ohio to get rid of the building and trustees have whatever time they need to decide what to do about the situation. “The building is starting to look tattered,” said Swain, who doubted the building could be used as a church again. “It’s a sad dilemma for everyone concerned,” he said.

“We’ve heard for some time that this might happen,” said Black Wednesday. “The (Ohio Revised Code) does provide that we may have to take it. There is no benefit to the township. There is responsibility, though.”

He said Union Township currently maintains three small cemeteries, but the one at Beaver Run and Canyon Road would definitely become the largest, should Union Township take responsibility for it. Black said that while the trustees may not be thrilled at the prospect of maintaining the church and cemetery, there are some historic sites and many local people’s ancestors, including Black’s, are buried there. He said it’s important that the cemetery is well maintained. “We want it looked after,” he said.

Slater said he’s working with Swain to discover the cemetery’s history.

In other township news:

• Trustee Jesse Ours said the Licking Park District requested that the township mow around roughly 20 gravestones in a small cemetery near Union School on Union Station Road. “They’re asking us to donate the mowing,” he said.

“But, it’s still our own expense,” said Slater. He said the cemetery was mowed recently and trustees will keep an eye on it to see if whoever mowed it will continue to so. “Let’s put this on the back burner,” he said.

• Trustees set an Aug. 15 completion date for various road work on Beaver Run, Refugee, Blacks, and Sycamore roads. “It would be nice to get it done before the buses run,” said Slater.

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