Dwindling funds for maintenance at Milan’s Union Cemetery have driven its caretakers to ask the town for help.
At the Sept. 15 town board meeting, June Gosnell, president of the Milan Union Cemetery Association, addressed the board on the status of the cemetery on Milan Hollow Road.
The cemetery, which became public in 1857, is a non-profit regulated by the state Cemetery Board. The members of the association meet biannually and maintain the grounds.
Maintenance is supposed to be funded by interest, income from plots sold, and service charges for burials. But Gosnell told the board that the current economy coupled with a recent increase in cremations means few plots have been purchased of late.
Because of that, the association has been using $2,000 to $3,000 a year from their general fund to maintain the cemetery, and the fund is now in danger of running out.
An audit of the cemetery conducted by the state last year found that, “under the current economic conditions, the [Milan Union Cemetery] is unable to generate sufficient income to cover operating costs,” she said.
But Gosnell added that she was not asking for money.
If the cemetery runs out of maintenance money or volunteers, state law dictates that it must be turned over to the town, she explained, and then the burden of maintenance would fall on Milan.
This law is based on a municipal assistance statute signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2010, legally authorizing municipalities to employ taxpayer money to help fund or maintain public cemeteries.
Gosnell explained that she was hoping to make the board aware of the important service the cemetery and its volunteers provide, as well as their financial struggles and safety concerns.
In particular, she outlined two major safety hazards she hopes to resolve.
First, she said, the cemetery entrance is dangerous because of the lack of visibility heading east on Milan Hollow Road, or County Route 15, and because there are no signs for the cemetery entrance, which is on a tight turn between Pink Lane and Pond Road.
“It’s not the town’s fault—it’s not a town road,” Gosnell said.
She said Stephen Gill of the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board has promised that signs will be installed at this location. “I guess I’m going to believe it when I see it,” Gosnell added.
“Well, if you don’t hear from him in another week or so…get back to me and maybe I can shake the tree,” responded Town Supervisor Bill Gallagher.
The entrance itself is also a serious obstacle, according to Gosnell. The angle of the drive is so steep that vehicles bottom out when they enter the cemetery grounds.
“If it’s getting to be a problem now, what is it going to be 20 years from now?” Gosnell asked. She also asked whether town Highway Superintendent Glenn Butler would be willing to use leftover material to fill up the uneven section or level the area with town equipment.
Gallagher said he would look into that, and added that the town might be able to pick up excess brush and chip it to help out with maintenance.
“I’d be happy to keep the conversation going…and I’ll keep the board informed… and I will bring Glenn into it, as well,” Gallagher said.