Board resignations leave Aulenbach Cemetery in limbo

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Aulenbach Cemetery Board turnover has left the non-profit, non-sectarian cemetery in limbo.

Six cemetery board members have resigned and given up responsibility for the cemetery, partly in Mount Penn and partly in Reading, said Joseph Cunliffe, a councilor.

“When you think of a transition from one board to another, you usually think of a ‘warm transition,'” he said. “Well, that didn’t happen here.”

Cunliffe, who took an interest in the cemetery, was appointed to its board in July.

At the same meeting, he said, three of the former board members announced their resignations, effective July 31. A fourth board member also announced his intention to step down, but did not give an effective date. A fifth board member had previously tendered his resignation by email, Cunliffe said. A sixth has simply stopped attending meetings and, if necessary, will be removed by the borough notary, he said.

The resignations came after Cunliffe and other borough council members began lobbying the cemetery board for full disclosure of its financial records, he said. However, he noted, there is no indication of criminal activity or wrongdoing, just shoddy accounting.

Edward Gensemer, former president of the embattled cemetery, declined to comment.

Maintaining the Aulenbach Cemetery has been a struggle in part because of a shortage of volunteers, officials say. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

state of disarray

Cunliffe said he and Mount Penn board chairman Troy Goodman were scheduled to meet at the cemetery office last month with outgoing board members. They were hoping to get keys, learn how the security system works, and go over other information needed to run the association, but no one showed up.

An envelope with an assortment of keys lay on the table, he said, and the files were a mess.

“Everything piled up in the maintenance office,” he said. “Boxes of books dating back to the early 1900s – how they kept records – current checkbook, overdue credit card bills.”

Cunliffe said he was able to use the cemetery meeting minutes showing his appointment and the resignations to get the bank to open new accounts for the cemetery, which he was using to pay outstanding bills.

Revenue for the 21.5-acre cemetery comes mostly from annual city and borough contributions.

Municipal contributions are supplemented by a small income from a $200,000 trust fund established for the perpetual maintenance of the cemetery at 2050 Howard Blvd.

Although mostly staffed by volunteers, the cemetery employed two part-time workers at $10 an hour for 20 hours a week, Gensemer said previously, but couldn’t find enough help to stay on top of the game. lawn care in the spring and summer. As a result, grass and weeds had invaded the cemetery.

Cunliffe organized a week-long volunteer cleanup effort last month after the frustrated council asked the borough and city for help.

But the cemetery needs more than weeding and mowing, Gensemer said in June.

Retaining walls are collapsing and in danger of collapsing, roads are deteriorating and riddled with potholes, and dead and dying trees must be removed to prevent them from falling and damaging headstones.

Without municipal support, he said, the cemetery could be forced to dissolve. If necessary, the land would become the responsibility of the city and the borough.

“The board is totally preparing to walk away from all of this,” Gensemer said in June. “We don’t have the funds, and we don’t have the manpower.”

Aulenbach Cemetery, straddling the town of Reading and the borough of Mount Penn, has become overgrown and needs repairs to its retaining walls.  (BILL UHRICH - EAGLE READER) ??
The retaining wall of the Aulenbach cemetery needs to be repaired. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Reorganize

Council members followed through on that threat last month, leaving only Cunliffe to oversee operations with Reading Councilor Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz, who was appointed to the cemetery council on Monday at a council meeting municipal.

The intention, Cunliffe said, is to reorganize with a five-member board appointed by city and borough councils. The council would then elect the officers.

He is already taking steps to get the cemetery back in business and possibly mount a fundraising campaign for much-needed brick-and-mortar repairs and upkeep.

Those interested in serving on the board or as volunteers should email the cemetery at [email protected]

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