XENIA — The City of Xenia will soon have a place for indigent burials.
And at the same time it will take steps to help preserve a historic cemetery.
City Council June 8 authorized the acquisition of a pair of properties near East Third and Sims streets, one, the historic Gowdy Reformed Cemetery — belonging to the Xenia Memorial United Presbyterian Church — and the other a 2.017 acre parcel owned by a private citizen.
Xenia will pay $12,000 for the vacant parcel and nothing for the Gowdy cemetery, according to City Manager Brent Merriman.
The city has for a while sought a solution to the growing indigent burial problem because it is statutorily responsible for such burials. But because there was no municipal cemetery, Xenia agreed to reimburse family members for burial services. Due to a lack of accountability and people seeking a “free funeral,” it turned into a costly situation. The city’s policy is to have indigent bodies cremated and requests are increasing, partly due to the opiate issue and partly due to the economy, according to city officials.
“It is a problem that over the last five, six years is a real growing challenge for us,” Merriman said, adding that there are six sets of remains in urns sitting in his office. “We just don’t know where this is going to top out. We wanted to look at alternatives.”
The land will be divided into 80 lots, which will hold 12 graves with six cremains in each. It will be big enough to hold 5,760 cremains and the city will receive up to 20 burial requests each year, according to city documents. The city is also responsible for permanent markers for each person it buries.
“We want to do this in a way that’s very dignified to the individuals, but at the same time very cost sensitive to our taxpayers,” Merriman said.
While searching for a place for a potential cemetery the church officials approached the city about taking over the care-taking responsibilities of the Gowdy cemetery, which was discontinued in 1849 when Woodland Cemetery opened. The Ohio Revised Code would put the onus on the city to assume maintenance responsibility if the church discontinued doing so.
The city’s plan is to restore and/or preserve headstones where possible and install a historic marker. The cemetery is the final resting place of some of the area’s founders and some veterans of the War of 1812, according to Merriman.
“Make sure that it has the care and upkeep that it deserves,” he said.
While investigating the cemetery, city officials discovered the mostly landlocked parcel adjacent to the south and struck the deal with the owner.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.