October 18, 2013
Cemetery seeking funding, support
Cortland Rural Cemetery presents county with
plan that includes art walks and concerts
Walking trails, art walks and concerts could be things to do at the Cortland Rural Cemetery in coming years, if a plan by cemetery board of trustees president John Hoeschele takes hold.
Hoeschele announced his plan at the Cortland County Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting Thursday as part of an initiative to raise money and make the Tompkins Street cemetery sustainable in the future.
He was seeking monetary support from the county as part of an ongoing effort to raise funds for the cemetery, which he says has a budget of approximately $125,000 yearly.
Hoeschele did not give a specific figure he sought from the county. The city has helped out the cemetery in recent months, righting headstones and replacing a deteriorating water system. The city’s Department of Public Works also removed 66 dump truck loads of dirt and other debris from the site that the cemetery had been collecting from burials.
The cemetery is in the black this year, he said, but it is uncertain if that would be the case next year.
The committee took no action on the matter.
The cemetery was founded in 1853 and is at about 85 percent capacity now so depending on the number of burials yearly, it could last about another 30 to 50 years, Hoeschele said.
Therefore it needs a plan for the future, he said.
“People don’t get excited about cemeteries as an institution, they use them when they have to,” said Hoeschele. “But they are a great place to walk, to bird watch, take pictures and listen to music.”
If the community is engaged in new ways to use the cemetery, it will be more likely to receive community support and also be more attractive as a recipient of grant funds.
Hoeschele says he has reached out to Seven Valleys Health Coalition for consideration of the cemetery as a place for walking trails and the Cultural Council of Cortland County about art shows.
Budget and Finance Chair Tony Pace (D-7th Ward) said state law would allow the county to financially support or donate equipment to the cemetery, but he could not say whether the county would agree. Pace said he wants to attend more presentations on the idea before deciding if he would support it.
Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) said the idea was “unusual” but that she could support it if it had community support and was being advocated by the cemetery board of trustees. Briggs said donating equipment to the cemetery would be more feasible than giving money to it, given the county’s fiscal situation.
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