WHEELING - The grass is cut and the property is well-tended, but tombstones tilt at the aging Mt. Zion Cemetery as the result of drainage problems and land-shifting there, acknowledged Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart.
Care for the cemetery has fallen to Ohio County officials, who use money from a small trust fund to pay a crew to cut the grass, he said.
No taxpayer money is spent to care for the cemetery, Stewart added, and the county is seeking private funds to help with maintenance.
A private work crew cuts the grass at the Mt. Zion
A small group of private individuals previously maintained the cemetery, located just southeast of Wheeling city limits at 309 Fairmont Ave., Stewart explained. Their numbers dwindled over time, until only one man remained to handle books, records and expenses there.
"One day he came in here (to the Ohio County Commission office) and left all their boxes and files on our counter," Stewart said. "He said he couldn't take care of them anymore - and if we didn't do it, someone would have to."
Since then, the Ohio County Commission has written checks from the trust fund account that came with the cemetery to cover the cost of grass cutting and do some needed jobs there, Stewart added. But he admits that account doesn't hold enough revenue to maintain the cemetery properly.
The county cuts the grass 12-15 times per year - about half as often as officials would like, Stewart said.
"We like to pay special attention to the cemetery during the holidays," he said. "We're working on securing outside funds, and that could help."
The cemetery encompasses about nine acres, much of it hillside. Heavy rain sometimes causes the hillside to shift, putting headstones off balance - but they can't be righted until the drainage issue is addressed, according to Stewart.
"We hope to start doing a better job starting next year if we get the private funding," he said. "We need to put in a proper drainage system so the road doesn't slip. This will help. Then we will go back and fix the roadways."