Johnsburg buried in cemetery grass

— The town of Johnsburg has 13 town-maintained cemeteries. That’s a lot of grass to cut; too much for the town’s Buildings and Parks Department’s one full-time employee and one part-time employee.

The town has little control over the number of cemeteries it must maintain. As Deputy Town Clerk Jo Ann Smith explained to the Town Board at its meeting Tuesday, April 3, many of the cemeteries were long-ago abandoned by their original owners. By state law, the town is obligated to take care of them. That’s a situation that doesn’t sit well with some in the town.

“This cemetery thing needs some historical perspective,” said resident Bob Nessle. “They were private … generated by either churches or families … and the state in its infinite wisdom decided that the taxpayers had to pay to take care of them.”

Nessle suggested the town pass a law saying that any new cemeteries have to have a perpetual care fund set up so that the town doesn’t get stuck maintaining them at taxpayer expense.

Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow agreed that the situation is an unfortunate burden on the taxpayers of the town. But he said his goal Tuesday was to come up with a plan to keep the grass mowed this summer and not take on the state over its abandoned cemetery law.

Vanselow said it was critical that the town have a plan in place in time to get the grass cut before Memorial Day weekend when the cemeteries will see a relatively high number of visitors.

In past years, the town has employed a variety of methods, including contracting the job out to a private entity, using temporary summer help to cut the grass and utilizing town staff from the Building and Parks Department to do it.

Tuesday there was no shortage of ideas. Some suggested having town crews work at it and supplement their efforts with some part-time help, perhaps in the form of the town’s young people out of school for the summer. Others cautioned against that approach because of age restrictions for using power equipment.

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