Turning To The Town

Future Of Randolph Cemetery To Be Discussed

Randolph Cemetery has been maintained by the Randolph Cemetery Association since its founding in the 1800s. On Monday, the Randolph Town board will host a special meeting to determine the future of cemetery. P-J photo by William Mohan

RANDOLPH — A Randolph cemetery will soon learn its fate.

On Monday, the Randolph Cemetery Association will meet with the Randolph Town Board at the municipal building at 72 Main St., to vote on the future of the cemetery.

The announcement comes after the cemetery association approached the Town Board on Dec. 4, 2018, about turning it over to the town.

The association had previously expressed its concerns to the board in a closed meeting in October. During that meeting, the cemetery association cited a lack of available volunteers due to either age or health and inaccessible funds to help maintain the property located on Cemetery Street near the Interstate 86 exit.

With the cemetery association folding operations, an audit was ordered by the New York State Division of Cemeteries.

A special meeting will be held Monday, to determine the future of the Randolph Cemetery. Cemetery groundskeeper Mike Lienhart stands next to one of the stones on the property. P-J photo by William Mohan

The Aug. 12 meeting was scheduled to help avoid potential abandonment to the town of Randolph. The purpose of the meeting will be to determine if the association and its assets will be reorganized or abandoned to the town.

However, while the cemetery association is unable to access funds, former secretary Howie VanRensselaer described the organization as being in excellent financial shape.

He attributed the decision by the board to state stipulations that are required of not-for-profit cemeteries.

State law doesn’t allow not-for-profit cemeteries to use money placed in their trust funds prior to completion of a burial.

Under New York state law, cemetery associations are only allowed to retain a permanent maintenance fund and a current maintenance fund for their properties.

Permanent maintenance is defined as upkeep and preservation of lots in the cemetery and its grounds. Of the money received from sales of lots, 15% is designated for permanent maintenance. Current maintenance is defined as “ordinary and necessary expenses.” From the sales of lots, associations are allowed to retain 10% for current maintenance.

Cemetery associations are required to keep all other money they receive in an individual perpetual care fund as trust. Money in this fund can only be used for burials. Perpetual care funds can also be used for the annual upkeep of their designated lot prior to March 15.

In addition, separate funds are required for maintenance of monuments, vandalism, cemetery abandonment and monument repair or removal.

Cemetery associations like Randolph’s are only able to live off of the interest made from services provided.

Even though the association is not able to use many of their finances under the law, VanRensselaer said current lot owners in Randolph Cemetery should have no reason to worry about the status of any current arrangements. He also said the move is good for the town in the long run considering its current financial state.

“We’ve got a lot of money that is just untouchable. We have the money we just can’t access it,” VanRensselaer said. “Financially that cemetery should be self-sufficient for 25 years. There’s a lot of funds there (for the association) that the state just won’t allow us to utilize because we are under the auspices of the state and so we can only live off of interest. If the town were to take it over, they should be able to be self-sufficient for many years to come.”

Many members of the association have had to support operations of the cemetery out of their own pockets. Among the items they have had to support are gas for mowing equipment, burial preparations and overall maintenance of the grounds. VanRensselaer said members of the association have also paid for flowers and other beautification efforts out of their own pockets.

VanRensselaer said the idea to transfer the association’s responsibilities to the town began when he and fellow member Jennifer Senn agreed that if one were to resign from the board the other would do the same. This agreement went alongside the realization that many of the organization’s former members were aged and didn’t want to work without younger members. VanRensselaer said he and Senn were the only two younger members on the board at the time the decision was made.

It was under these circumstances that the association agreed to hand the responsibility of the cemetery over to the town.

VanRensselaer said he came to the decision because of work and other commitments that have not left him any time to his role in the association.

“They tried to dissolve the cemetery. Its been on hold.” Randolph town Clerk Gretchen Hind said referring to the audit by the Division of Cemeteries.

Current Randolph Cemetery groundskeeper Mike Lienhart said in addition to his regular night job, he generally tries to work between 30 to 40 hours a week on the property.

“It’s just never-ending,” Lienhart said.

When asked if he had any concern about potential upkeep of the property by the town, he said more workers would need to be hired just to maintain the property alone should it fall under its jurisdiction.

“This cemetery could be maintained probably with 60 man-hours a week and look nice,” Lienhart said. “I just hope enough people feel the need to serve.”

VanRensselaer said any reorganization would require a set amount of individuals that the state allows to constitute a cemetery-association board. According to the Division of Cemeteries, two individuals are required to make a quorum on the board of a cemetery association. In addition, no more than three lot owners are required to stand on any cemetery association board.

“If it (the association) were to stay the same they would need a secretary, a treasurer, a vice president and at least five more (board members),” VanRensselaer said. “Our bylaws said nine and that goes back to the association (its founding) in the 1800s.”