NORTHFIELD CENTER -- Conditions at Northfield-Macedonia Cemetery have deteriorated beyond just needing a fence repair.

Mike Friess, cemetery secretary, treasurer and operations manager, said the facility is now facing safety issues including the need to replace on-site fuel tanks used for mowers and equipment.

"I would like to address the health and safety issues first," Friess said. "We have a roof that has been leaking since last fall, the fuel tanks need replaced and the service building heater needs replaced."

He said that in addition to the health and safety concerns, other needed repairs include replacing informational signs, driveway repaving, refinishing cemetery benches, and repairing and preserving the "old section" of gravestones. There are also some technology improvements he would like to see including replacing the computer and digitizing old deed and record books.

Friess said he was still gathering estimates for the listed repairs.

Friess added he would like to see new trees planted to replace the 20 diseased trees, which were cut down in 2016. the falling branches were a hazard and some had even broken headstones when they fell under the weight of the snow and ice.

Macedonia Councilor and Cemetery Board member Jan Tulley is concerned about the road through the cemetery. Beatrice Greenlee, a cemetery board trustee and a former Northfield Village Councilor agreed. She also believes the road needs to be addressed.

"You always have to upgrade," Greenlee said. "You have to maintain."

The road "that takes you through the cemetery is deteriorating. It needs to be totally replaced," said Tulley. "It's time to take a hard look at what do we do and how do we fix it."

Friess said the fence along Olde Eight Road is structurally sound but has paint peeling off more and more each year. He added he is still looking into ways to repair it. He said that section of the fence could be sandblasted and refinished or merely painted over, but that painting over it would not last long as badly as the fence is peeling.

He said the older section of the fence along Valley View Road is a bigger problem.

"It is disintegrating," he said. "The rust is so bad, you can stick your finger through it in places. There is no way to repair it."

Tulley said another option may be removing it, "because there are some cemeteries that have no fences."

Greenlee previously told the News Leader, she does not favor taking down the fence.

"I would never take down the fence," she said. "We need that fence to protect the cemetery with all the traffic through that area."

Rich Reville, a Northfield Center trustee, declined comment because he is just starting his term as a cemetery board trustee.

Friess said the cemetery board began talking with vendors in 2015 and will continue to investigate costs of fencing and fundraising ideas. He said private donations would be accepted as well.

Tulley said the board hasn't made any decisions yet "because part of it is determining the cost. But we've got to do something."

The 2016 annual budget for the cemetery was about $198,000, Friess said. The cemetery, which is in Northfield Center Township, is funded by all four communities -- Macedonia, Northfield Village, Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills Township. Three trustees serve for three years each on a rotating basis.

Friess said annual contributions to the cemetery from each of the four Nordonia Hills communities in 2016 are: Macedonia -- about $69,000; Sagamore Hills Township -- about $49,000; Northfield Center Township -- about $26,000; and Northfield Village -- about $11,000

The cemetery board, in an effort to help keep up with maintenance, voted in 2016 to raise fees, according to Friess. Grave fees increased from $500 to $650 and the burial fee increased from $500 to $650. Families must also pay a $65 endowment fee, bringing the total cost of being buried at the cemetery to $1,365.

In 2016, he said there were 28 grave sales and 63 burials. Overall, 4,852 grave plots have been filled and 729 grave plots remain.

He said he would like to leave the cemetery in a better condition than when he first took over.

"These are the earliest ancestors of the founding of Northfield and we need to honor that and leave it in a better condition than we found it," he said.

Greenlee added, "I'm glad the public has taken an interest in the cemetery. That makes it nice."

The cemetery board does not deal with All Saints Cemetery on Highland Road in Northfield Center Township. The next regular cemetery board meeting is April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the cemetery building on the northwest corner of Valley View and Olde Eight roads. The board usually meets once a quarter.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

bbarker@recordpub.com

https://twitter.com/thenewsleader