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City of Toronto now owns Toronto Union Cemetery

CEMETERY TRANSFER APPROVED — On Monday, Toronto Council accepted the transfer of Toronto Union Cemetery to the city. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — Toronto Union Cemetery officially became city property on Monday.

The move came after members of the cemetery’s board approached council about financial difficulties, saying the sale of lots has declined and the board could no longer afford to maintain the 39-acre site.

William Haynes, an attorney representing the board, advised that Ohio Revised Code Section 759.08 calls for a cemetery under such circumstances to become property of the government of the municipality or township where it’s located.

Craig Allen, the city’s law director, supported that assessment. He suggested while the city is required to maintain the cemetery’s grounds, it’s not obligated to sell future lots.

Located near Sunset Drive, Toronto Union Cemetery is said to have about 900 unused lots.

Established in 1866, it includes a Civil War monument and many graves dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to the Historical Society of Toronto.

On Monday, council approved an ordinance finalizing the property’s transfer and altered the city’s table of organization, a framework for the city’s departments and personnel, to include a part-time caretaker for the cemetery and two part-time support staff, all to be supervised by the city’s public works director.

Mayor John Parker, who was called for comment, said the status for the three will be similar to the city’s seasonal help.

He said much of their work will involve maintaining the grounds in the summer, though they will be needed to prepare graves at other times of the year.

Parker earlier expressed concern that a levy would be needed to support the cemetery. But on Monday, he said since staff began working there in late April, he feels the city can employ new approaches and rely on its own resources to manage it.

“We’ve been in operation for 40 days and everything is going well,” he said.

During his report from council’s services committee, Councilman at large Ron Holmes noted city crews had put in 90 hours and handled two burials.

When 4th Ward Councilman Greg Herrick asked who was handling calls about lot purchases and other matters, he was told the mayor was taking them through his office.

Council also established a new committee to oversee the cemetery. Chaired by Holmes, it will include Councilman at large Larry Glenn and 2nd Ward Councilman Steve Sninchak.

In other business:

≤ Council approved an agreement with the Jefferson County Land Bank through which the entity will split the cost to demolish the Roosevelt building at 600 Loretta Ave.

The former school gym served as the city’s recreation center until the former Karaffa Elementary School was donated to the city in 2019.

Council earlier accepted a bid of $52,000 from RSV Inc. of Steubenville to raze the two-story structure, with some noting the remaining green space might be used for a playground.

Parker said various options are being considered for the site.

≤ Council approved the third reading of an ordinance raising the city’s base water and sewer rates, both currently $25.50, to $26, effective July 1, and again to $27 on Jan. 1 and to $28 on Jan. 1, 2024.

The rate is based on a monthly use of 2,000 gallons.

For every 1,000 gallons used beyond that, water and sewer customers will pay $11.50, up from $9.50, on July 1, followed by $11.50 on Jan. 1 and $12.50 on Jan. 1, 2024.

The rate hikes were reached following months of investigation and discussion involving city officials and an ad hoc citizens committee led by David Core and Scott Johnson.

The citizens became involved after suggesting increases for customers with higher use rather than those who pay the city’s minimum rates, as initially proposed.

≤ Herrick, reporting for the city’s recreation committee, announced the city’s swimming pool is slated to open Saturday, though Recreation Director Rod Henry continues to seek lifeguards to work through the season.

The pool’s hours are 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for adult swimming and 12:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. for all others, seven days a week.

Daily admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and senior citizens, and $1 for spectators (the latter for parents and others who wish to enter only to watch children in their care).

Season passes and shelter rentals also are available. For information, call (740) 537-2234.

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