2012-03-10 / News

Church, cemetery status still up in the air

By Scott Rawdon

UNION TOWNSHIP – The future of an old Baptist church and cemetery at the corner of Canyon and Beaver Run roads is a complete mystery to Union Township Trustees and members of the cemetery board are very frustrated with the situation.

“At this point it’s in limbo,” said Trustee Rick Black Monday night. “It has to be abandoned to us and that hasn’t happened yet. It hasn’t come back to us yet.”

Last year, Larry Swain, executive minister for the Granville based American Baptist Churches of Ohio, attended a Union Township Trustees meeting to offer the trustees the abandoned church and possibly the active Licking 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.

Township Administrator Paula Greene said American Baptist Churches of Ohio requested its deed back for the property and the township obliged. Other than that, there’s little else the township can do about the situation. “It’s not the township’s place to solicit it,” she said, adding that the American Baptist Churches of Ohio would need to go through various procedures to abandon the property to the township. “They’re not talking to us (at the moment),” said Greene. “They’ll let us know.”

Members of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio could not be reached for comment by Beacon press time for additional information, other than a receptionist who simply stated, “It’s out of our hands now.”

In the meantime, those who currently maintain the cemetery are becoming anxious.

“Three members of six member board have quit in frustration,” said Henry Porter, Licking Cemetery Association chair, Monday night. The association has maintained the cemetery for many years. Porter said the church’s doors are boarded and several “No Trespassing” signs were mounted on the boards. “I don’t know where this thing is going,” he said. Porter is concerned that the cemetery will not be properly maintained unless the situation is resolved soon. Black assured Porter the township would meet its responsibilities if and when it’s required to do so. “We will maintain it if it’s abandoned to us,” he said.

Greene said all the township can do is wait for word from the American Baptist Churches of Ohio.

In other township news:

• Black said the unseasonably warm winter has left the township with 400 tons of extra salt. “We’re waiting for the salt company to tell us what they’re going to do,” he said. Black said that every year the township contracts for 800 tons of salt based on average usage. “It has not been a normal winter,” he said, adding that the township is still obligated for half of its yearly allocation. Black said the salt company may agree to store the salt until next year for a fee, but if the township has to store it, “I don’t know what we’re going to do. That’s a lot of salt.” He hopes the township isn’t forced to build a structure to contain it.

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