$15,000 cemetery grant ‘virtually useless’ says volunteer

Longtime volunteer says dilapidated historic vault is in need of $40,000 in repairs.

MIDDLETOWN — A $15,000 grant for repairs to the Pioneer Cemetery’s historic vault is “virtually useless,” according to a longtime cemetery volunteer.

Vivian Moon, who has been entangled in legal battles with the city over its maintenance of the cemetery, said the money will not cover the $40,000 in repairs needed to the dilapidated vault.

“Without additional funding, it’s no different than it was before,” Moon said. “I still can’t do anything with the vault.”

The city was awarded $15,000 from the Middletown Community Foundation to repair the vault, according to City Manager Judy Gilleland. The grant is contingent on the city obtaining the balance of funding for the project and beginning construction by November 2011, she said.

“I’d like to extend sincere thanks to the Middletown Community Foundation for their partnership and continued support for the projects to sustain our city’s heritage and to promote a better community for all to enjoy,” Gilleland said.

The historic vault requires at least $35,000 in stone work, according to Moon, as well as another $5,000 for new steel doors. Termites have been gnawing at the vault’s wooden doors, Moon said, rendering them almost useless.

“I appreciate the grant from the community foundation, but there just isn’t much I can do now,” Moon said. “Because the 501(c)(3) is held by the city, they’re just going to have to file for other grants.”

With what Moon dubs “the Christmas season for cemeteries” quickly approaching — the two-week span between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day — she expects local residents will begin voicing concern over its hours of operation and condition.

“The beds haven’t been weeded and the entire place hasn’t been pruned,” she said. “I went over there last year and bailed them out, but I’m not doing it this year. It’s going to be on them.”

“I’m not real happy,” Moon said. “They’re going to pump millions of dollars downtown, but we can’t take care of the most historic 11 acres of Middletown.”

The First Avenue cemetery is the final resting place for many of Middletown's founding families and veterans from the Revolutionary through Vietnam wars.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2871 or at rgauthier@coxohio.com.

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