Monday, July 19, 2004

Cemetery volunteers
help out government


While the city and the county argue over who has responsibility for maintaining the overgrown Wesleyan Cemetery in Northside, volunteers have come to the rescue. Last week, folks came together and did what government has been hesitant to do - cut some grass.

Long blades of shaggy green weeds have been left unkempt, growing around tombstones and destroying cemetery grounds because city and county officials are too tied up in their own disagreements to take action. But in the good spirit of community service, a group of volunteers blew past the governmental fight in a whirlwind of lawn mowers and hedge clippers.

While the volunteers maintained, the officials complained. Terry Nestor, a city attorney, said officials realized taking care of the cemetery would have used up most of their $250,000 budget for clearing hundreds of overgrown lots throughout the city. Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich said Tuesday that he doesn't think the county can afford the cost or legal risk of getting involved. The first mowing could cost $30,000 and subsequent ones $17,000 apiece, Heimlich said.

As shown by the volunteer group, it doesn't take a whole lot of money, or time, to mow the grass. Officials would rather toss the issue around like a hot potato than show concern for their county. That's unacceptable.

The city is looking for answers in its empty coffers, and that isn't the solution. This summer, the Cincinnati Recreation Committee and other organizations have been providing programs to give disadvantaged youth a chance to earn a pool pass in exchange for a few hours of labor. Officials can apply a similar incentive program to kids with able bodies and not a whole lot to do during the summer as a way of keeping the community clean and their budget intact.

Maintaining cemetery grounds should not be a complicated issue. The city and Hamilton County need to stop squabbling and instead take responsibility - and pride - in their community. After all, if labor is short and money is an issue, officials can follow the volunteers' example and grab a lawn mower themselves.

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