2012-02-25 / News

Township could end up with cemetery, another church

By Scott Rawdon

American Baptist Churches of Ohio are trying to transfer this abandoned church and the adjacent Licking Cemetery to Union Township Trustees. Beacon photo by Scott Rawdon. American Baptist Churches of Ohio are trying to transfer this abandoned church and the adjacent Licking Cemetery to Union Township Trustees. Beacon photo by Scott Rawdon. UNION TOWNSHIP – A move to transfer control of the Licking Cemetery and possibly an old Baptist Church to the Union Township Trustees was delayed after the trustees had some questions about the deed, the trustees said Monday night.

“There have been no transfers at this point,” said Trustee President John Slater.

Last year, Larry Swain, executive minister for the Granvillebased American Baptist Churches of Ohio, attended a 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. Union Township 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 cemetery and possibly the old church, which is currently abandoned and in disrepair.

Trustees, who have no township use for the old church, have been clear that given a choice they would rather not be in charge of it, and would rather see the church go to someone whom it would benefit.

Slater said trustees were concerned because the deed the American Baptist Churches of Ohio prepared included the old church although the trustees aren’t sure it’s required to be included. “That’s what’s being asked,” he said. “Does the township have to take over the church?”

“The trustees had some questions about what the law requires them to do,” said Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Austin Lecklider, adding that at this time he couldn’t comment further. Any transfer is currently on hold.

Slater said the township could incur plenty of expenses if it’s saddled with the church, whether it’s to upgrade it to where someone could use it, or to demolish it. The church, which has been boarded up for years, suffers some mold damage, most of its windows are shattered, and there are other structural issues. He said everyone agrees that the Licking Cemetery needs to be “top notch” and properly maintained at all times, but he believes the church is a separate issue.

American Baptist Churches of Ohio Regional Minister Robert Cassady said Wednesday that his association’s trustees will meet Tuesday, and he’ll know more about the situation following that meeting.

“I want to see (the cemetery) well maintained and well managed,” said Henry Porter, Lick- ing Cemetery Association chair, Monday night. He said the association has been maintaining the cemetery many years. “We’d like to continue to do that,” he said. Porter said he’d like to see this situation resolved. “It’s got to be managed under one authority,” he said.

“I understand your passion,” said Slater.

Porter said he doesn’t ever want there to be a situation where the cemetery is not maintained because no one’s sure who’s in charge.

“We’re with you,” said Slater.

Resident John Black told the trustees that it “seems a pity” the Licking Cemetery doesn’t have a proper sign to identify it. “It’s just a lot full of tombstones,” he said. People won’t recognize its importance if people don’t know its name, said Black. “It leaves the cemetery kind of isolated.”

Tuesday, Reverend Ray Sunkle, of Newark’s Church of Christ in Christian Union, was looking over the old church and considering moving a congregation into it eventually if it can be brought up to specifications, but he’s so far made no commitment for the structure.

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