V illage officials have closed the Boardman Street cemetery while they determine the extent to which they are liable for injuries caused by damaged or toppled headstones and monuments.
Following last Tuesday’s board meeting, officials asked that the gates to the municipally owned cemetery be closed until their insurance provider assessed the risk to those visiting the cemetery.
Officials are trying to determine if they would be liable if anyone was hurt by a tombstone toppling on them.
Mayor Peter Telisky voiced the concern after following an incident in Utah in which a young child was killed when a gravestone fall on him.
Telisky said the preliminary findings from the village’s insurance provider, Northern Insurance, have found that the village would not be liable.
“Their first look at, it appears there would be no peril for the village; they don’t see a problem,” Telisky said.
He said the company is still researching the events that occurred in Utah and the Boardman Street cemetery will remain closed until a final determination is made. It’s expected that could occur by the end of the week.
Earlier this month, six-year-old Carson Dean Cheney died when a six-foot-tall tombstone toppled over on top him as he was trying to take a family picture in a Park City, Utah., cemetery.
Reportedly, the metal that held the more-than-100-year-old tombstone on its pedestal broke.
The Boardman Street Cemetery dates back to at least the 19th century. Many of the graves date to the turn of that century and it’s believed no one has been buried there in 10 to 15 years.
Due to its age and the uneven, shifting ground on which the cemetery is located, a number of gravestones have toppled over or are leaning. Some local residents suspect there has been vandalism in the cemetery as well, although the Whitehall Police Department has not received any complaints.
Telisky said the village may look into ways to improve the condition of the cemetery. It’s believed there may be a trust that could provide funds to level some of the stones and ground in the cemetery, but those discussions are still preliminary. Officials will continue to research the options available to them before coming to any decision.
In other matters, the village is preparing to move on water users who reside outside of the village and have not paid their bills.
Of the 17 people who have overdue water bills, two users have yet to make any contact with the village as requested.
Telisky said those users will receive a letter notifying them that their water service will be terminated.
“They will be shut off, there is no question,” he said.
The letters are being composed and will be sent once the Department of Public Works establishes a time they can get to the homes and shut off the water.
The notice is expected to be sent by regular and certified mail. If the certified copy is returned unsigned, officials may arrange for law enforcement personnel to deliver them in person.
The remaining users have all contacted the village to express their intent to pay their bills.
Officials said last month that a handful of users have paid their bills and a number of others were making payments.
Several users are expected to enter into a confession of judgment, which is an admission they owe the money and intend to pay the bill. The village’s attorney is in the process of preparing the confessions and it’s expected they will be ready by the next board meeting on Aug. 14.