Johnstown tackles the cleanup of abandoned cemeteries; Three ‘restoration program’ over, official says

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Photo caption: Headstones at Gross / Bosshart Cemetery on Route 67 in Johnstown in July. ERICA MILLER / THE LEADER-HERALD

JOHNSTOWN – City council member Walt Lane delivered a report to council on Monday detailing progress on the city’s $ 10,000 program to improve the condition of its abandoned rural cemeteries.

Lane told the board of directors that Pierre Alric, of Pickett Memorial Inc., had indicated that he had completed the “restoration program” of three of the city’s abandoned rural cemeteries:

• The Old Lutheran Church, located at the intersection of Route 67 and Route 334, also known as “Gross Cemetery” or “Boshart Cemetery” at a cost of $ 5,575
• Coon School House Cemetery, located at the corner of McGregor Road and North Bush Road at a cost of $ 3,125
• North Bush Road Cemetery at a cost of $ 575

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Alric’s written report set out his plan for the remainder of the abandoned rural cemeteries, which state law requires the city to own and maintain.

“I am currently working on over 50 monuments in the Keck Center Cemetery, which I plan to complete within the next two weeks,” reads Alric’s report. “I estimate the cost of the Keck Center cemetery to be approximately $ 3,000. “

Alric writes that he plans to spend the remainder of the 2020 program funds, around $ 1,500, to reach six smaller cemeteries, if he can find them: Clip Hill, Old Adam Fredrick, Old Hillabrant, Old Quilhot , McVean Family and Old Vosburgh. . He said he is still trying to locate these abandoned cemeteries, which are sometimes located in obscure places on private farmland, even though they belong to the city.

“You have to locate five or six, or start working at McDougal Cemetery, one of which is expected to use up the $ 10,000 allotted in 2021,” Alric wrote.

In his report, Alric recommends that city council approve an additional $ 10,000 for 2022, which he said he would use to work on Peter’s cemetery, located on Sweet Road, “which has more than 80 monuments which may require works, and [then] either the smaller cemeteries or the McDougal cemetery remaining from 2021. “

Johnstown supervisor Jack Wilson said he included an additional $ 10,000 in the city’s 2022 budget for the cemetery program.

“By the end of next year, we should be in really good shape with the cemeteries,” Wilson said.

The public hearing for the city’s 2022 budget is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday evening.

In recent years, City Council member Tim Rizzo has been a strong advocate for the city by doing even more work to restore its abandoned rural cemeteries. However, he was not happy with the board’s plan to employ Alric as a supplier to get the job done.

At the June 21 city council meeting, Rizzo “surprised” the board of directors with a presentation from Saratoga Springs-based landscape engineering company The LA Group, the company that designed the Gerald BH National Cemetery. Solomon Saratoga in the 1990s.

The LA Group proposed a $ 15,000 plan to conduct a study that would establish an inventory of all rural cemeteries owned by the city, a list, as far as can be determined, of the graves they contain, and develop a plan for what needs to be done to rehabilitate them and bring the city into line with municipal law 291. The study could then be used as a basis for requesting state or federal grants to secure the money needed for the rehabilitation work.

When Rizzo proposed a resolution to hire The LA Group, none of the other city council members agreed to provide the necessary “secondary”, resulting in the death of the motion.

City council member Donald VanDeusen explained why he would not support hiring the engineering company.

“Hiring them would be no different than buying a lottery ticket,” VanDeusen said at the June 21 meeting.

On Monday evening, Rizzo asked if Alric was using some sort of chemical solution to clean the gravestones in some of the abandoned cemeteries, where he said he saw a gravestone “turned completely white”.

“Someone is using something,” Rizzo said.

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“As far as I know nobody did any stone cleaning, Mr. Alric only did repair work,” Lane told Rizzo.

“Someone is doing something,” Rizzo replied.

“I have no doubt, but nobody is involved in our project,” Lane retorted. “It could be someone who is a member of the family; all these places are open to the public.

After the meeting, Lane and Wilson said they continued to doubt the value of an inventory of the city’s rural cemeteries by the LA group or a consultant.

Lane said he does not believe the small rural cemeteries in the city’s possession have historical figures that could help the city qualify for state grants for major restoration work or fencing.

“We are very willing to take care of them,” Lane said. “We took care of them. What Mr. Alric does is he goes to the cemetery; he identifies which gravestone is supposed to be there, if there is nothing he is looking at in the ground – sometimes these things are buried in the ground – he digs them up, fixes them, if possible, glues them and put them back in place. Every now and then they just get torn down, and he can’t, but it’s usually only three or four monuments.

Wilson said Fulton County about 20 years ago did a lot of research on rural cemeteries.

“We have maps. We have the names of the people, which families were where. We have all of that information, ”Wilson said. “This is one of the reasons we don’t need to hire an engineering team to go find it because we already have everything. “

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