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    Posted: Dec 16 2010 at 11:43pm
From the MJ:

Resident seeks repairs for Middletown Cemetery

By Jessica Heffner, Staff Writer 10:00 PM Thursday, December 16, 2010

MIDDLETOWN — A Middletown resident has filed a complaint with the state regarding the condition of Middletown Cemetery.

Two generations of Terry Scott Wills’ family is buried in the cemetery off of First Avenue. Once known as Pioneer Cemetery, Wills said he’s concerned the city has allowed the site to deteriorate. He recently filed a complaint with the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission in an attempt to get the city to take action.

“(It’s) unacceptable in my viewpoint and, as I understand it, the city is legally responsible for the care of the cemetery,” Wills wrote to the commission.

The complaint requests the city make repairs to the mausoleum — which has been covered with a blue tarp for the past several years — repair the fences and place gravel on the roads. Wills said he would like to extend cemetery hours past 3 p.m. on weekdays and include weekend visiting time, according to the complaint.

Wills did not return calls seeking comment.

Les Landen, city law director, said it is the city’s position that the cemetery is being maintained “in a manner consistent with (the city’s) financial capabilities” and within guidelines outlined by the state cemetery commission.

According to Ron Phelps, city public works superintendent, $10,000 to $15,000 is spent annual to maintain Middletown Cemetery. Those costs include grounds maintenance, repairs and other clean up.

Public works Director Dave Duritsch said the vault, which serves as storage at the cemetery, needs about $65,000 in repairs. The city received a $15,000 grant from the Middletown Community Foundation to make repairs, but has not been able to obtain more funding for the restoration.

Landen sent several documents and photos to the commission outlining the work done at the cemetery. The documents state the roads are gravel — despite Wills’ complaint — and the fence is in good repair. City officials also said they have applied for grants to assist with gravestone repairs.

A hearing on the complaint was scheduled for Thursday, but was postponed due to inclement weather. It will be rescheduled to go before the commission in March, said spokesman Dennis Ginty.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2843 or jheffner@coxohio.com.

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Mtown View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mtown Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 1:20am
Who really cares about the old cemetery. If there are people that have descendants buried there let them take care of the cemetery. Why do they expect the taxpayers to take care of their family grave sites?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 5:51am

Public works Director Dave Duritsch said the vault, which serves as storage at the cemetery, needs about $65,000 in repairs. The city received a $15,000 grant from the Middletown Community Foundation to make repairs, but has not been able to obtain more funding for the restoration.

Well it seems Mr. Dave has been reeeeeally busy since he has forgotten to file the grants for the vault at the cemetery.

Hummm...Didn't this same office just file $80,000 in grants for the new Armbruster Park?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TANGO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 6:20am
It is the city responsibility to maintain the cemetery just like the rest of cities do the state. Council has let this issue get out of control.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote What A City Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 7:12am
I am a friend of Mr. Wills. I read the letter before he mailed it to Cleveland. The letter referred the hearing personel to this site to view the before and after pictures taken at the cemetery by Ms. Moon and her volunteers. The letter made reference to the entrance where there was once mulch and landscaping and that it had all been removed by the city and planted in grass because the city didn't have time to maintain it. The letter asked why the city couldn't let the people who put the landscaping in- aka Ms. Moon's group maintain it. That wasn't addressed in Ms. Heffner's article either.
Mr. Landen must have read the letter wrong concerning the gravel roads. We are all aware the cemetery has gravel roads and has had for years. The letter stated that the gravel on the roads was covering some of the grave markers based on the one picture taken by Ms. Moon's group. I don't know wher Mr. Landen comes up with stating the roads are gravel. That's not the issue nor what was said. It is the COVERING OF THE MARKERS BY THE GRAVEL  that is the issue according to Mr. WiIls' letter.
 
Ms. Heffner's article also states that Ron Phelps stated that the city is spending 10 to 15 thou per year on ground maintenance, repairs and "other clean up. Is this work actually being done, other than cutting the grass. Is there trimming around the markers being done? What about clearing the fenceline?
 
If the hearing people would just observe the pictures on this site,. it would answer alot of the complaint questions and reveal that Landen is not above board on his comments.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bobbie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 9:07am

Landen is an expert at cover up.  They say it would take 65k to repair - but it would not have taken that much money if they had been doing there work all along.  That is there fault.  So I am assuming they are admitting they had not been taking care of the work for years?  Or did the cemetary just deteriorate overnight. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TANGO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 10:11am
Good point Bobbie, this problem has been around for a while. I thought the council would successful in correcting this issue, but Dan p. thinks it takes an expert to get it done, I sit on cemetery board and its not that hard if you take the responsibility that the city has to keep it up the way other municipalities do.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 11:11am
Bobbie
I have searched the records and I could not find ANY records where ANY repairs have been made on the vault in the past 60 years.
If they had made minor repairs over the years to the vault we would not be having this conversation.
Just take a ride to the Miltonville cemetery and take a look at that vault which was built by the same stone mason.
And it is the same with all the other problems at the cemetery.
The families have complained about the condition of this cemetery for years and the city has not listened or even tried to correct the problems..
This is just a story of utter neglect that has been going on for years..period.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chief Whatdahey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 17 2010 at 11:05pm
Mtown, as usual you have made a contribution to the forum that shows how how ignorant and uninformed you are. It has been said that "you can tell a lot about a society, by how they honor their dead."  Middletown has a rich history, in industry, entertainment, innovation, and many other things. Only in the past few decades has the leadership if this once great and thriving community steered us into the present mess we are in. If you do not know why we should preserve the memory and honor of the founding families, veterans, or other citizens interred at the Pioneer Historic Cemetary, I would suggest your going to the local library and educating yourself about the community in which you live (if infact you live here, and aren't just a troll stirring controversy). There is also the matter of law that requires the city to do maintenance and upkeep on the cemetary. Unlike, private cemetaries, that are also required to do record keeping, and upkeep of cemetaries under the Ohio Revised and Administratve Codes, we as tax payers are responsible. Had the city been doing it's part and the recent decades' leadership not been worried about personal political and financial gains, many things the city is responsible for (streets, sewers, storm drains, services, municipal property upkeep... etc) would have been properly maintained over the years and this would not be an issue now. Do some research. Learn Middletown's history. You might just learn something you didn't know about this community and what it once was, and why so many are frustrated with what it has become. Ms. Moon and all concerned, keep up the fight on every front.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 10:30am
Middletown doesn't honor the living....how do you expect it to honor the dead? Question
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Terry Wills Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 11:50am
Hello everyone. Have been reading this site for some time and thought I would add some comments for clarification on Ms. Heffner's story.

First, I want to state that I have family buried in the cemetery. My grandfather's parents and brother reside there.

I DID NOT state in my letter, as Heffner has written and as Landen has commented, anything about not having gravel on the roads. I said that the gravel was covering some of the gravemarkers in the cemetery. I have no clue how they mis-interpreted this part of the letter.

I would be curious to see the photos of the work Mr. Landen claims was done. All they have done to my knowledge is cut the grass so far. The fence line was cleared, bushes trimmed, and stones turned upright by Ms. Moon's group according to the pictures on this site. I don't know what other work Landen and the city could take credit for other than just the bare minimum of upkeep. Nothing to be proud of, city management.

The blue tarp has become a permanent roof replacement for the vault. That's not acceptable. Has the city even attempted to have a money drive asking for donations for the vault? I haven't seen one. I doubt they have made any attempt to remedy the situation at all.

I did recommend that the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Committee go to this forum, pull up all of the pictures that have been submitted by Ms. Moon, review them and make the before and after pictures a large part of their decision. The pictures have more of an impact than anything I could have told them, in my opinion. In order for them to get the most impact, I suggested they pay close attention to the entryway where, at one time, it was mulched with nice landscaping. (pictures by Ms. Moon) Now, just grass. I also stated that no one knows what happened to the plants that were purchased by private citizens. I mentioned that there was an E-Mail with a stop work order from the city manager to Ms. Moon. I asked the committee, why would a city manager stop a volunteer group from helping th city maintain this property? The city is always encouraging volunteer efforts. Now, we have a group that wants to help and they are kept from doing so. Sounds vindictive to me on the city manager's part.   

It doesn't matter what Mr. Landen has to say about the city not having the money to take proper care of this property. It is the law and they are violating the law. Plain and simple. It is MANDATORY, so says the state, that the city take care of this cemetery. Why hasn't there been money in the budget to take care of city affairs, as is required by law, Ms. Gilleland and Mr. Landen? You are in violation and no amount of smoke-screen double talk changes that. To me, it SHOULD be a no-brainer as to the decision. The city has failed to meet their legal obligation here.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 12:05pm
Mtown- thank you for demonstrating your compassion for the human race. Your post enlightens us as to the type of human being you are. There are founders of this town buried there. I assume you would say the same thing about Arlington Cemetery in Washington also, right? To hell with the soldiers buried there too, right? "Let the people that have desendants buried there take care of the cemetery, right? "Why do they expect the taxpayer to take care of their family grave sites?" So, in your opinion, to hell with the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. Why should we pay for the round-the-clock guarding of that site by paying the military who walk the perimeter, right? Do you want to extinguish the eternal flame on Kennedy's grave also? What the hell is the matter with you? Is there nothing sacred to you?

This is a public cemetery, not a private one like Woodside. Who else is going to take care of the graves if not the public? Obviously, the city doesn't care to take care of their obligation or they would have been doing it all along and with a better effort.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 2:24pm
I'd rethink this effort, although commendable. The Dispute Resolution guidelines and maintenance reuirements are extremely low. Mow grass once a month, remove artificial flowers once a year. The city has the discretion to do what they wish on the building. They could tear it down. It is not covered under ORC 4767. Don't think this will have the positive impact you are predicting. City will state fully in compliance with requirements under statute, which they are.Then, it becomes a historic significance battle which does not rest with the Dispute Resolution body. For the past efforts, while the argument will be Vivian Moon did maintain the fence, now that is a non issue, the city will state they will maintain gravel, the fence, and the minimum requirement going forward.
 
Look at grants, donations, other sources. These has the markings of failure.Read how minimal the statute reads. There is nothing which points the municipality has to maintain a building no longer in use. In fact, they probably would indicate the city could tear it down. 
 
Can you point to the written part of 6757 which states the municpality MUST maintain a structure no longer in use? Don't believe it is there. Do you?
 
     
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"Roads, buildings, structures, and fencing should be maintained and repaired as needed."

Should has a distinct meaning than MUST. Playing devil's advocate, and I am in agreement the facility should be properly maintained, lets play a hypothetical. Lets say in 1908, for 75 years, a house was provided on the grounds of the cemetary for the convenience and benefit of a maintenance grounds keeper, and as part of his salary. In 1909, this practice was abolished, the house was no longer used, although it sat on the property of the cemetary. 
 
The house would be  building or structure. If it was no longer used, would it be a requirement to maintain it, under the statute and in the manner the Resolution group functions? I say not. If a barn was on the property, and was all wood, and torn down and replaced, would that meet the requirement under the guidelines---lets say for storing lawn mowers.
 
This is vague and general. The Resolution group will not evaluate the significance/ insignificance, of a historic facility in my opinion. The building is not in use. How can this be prevailed upon based upon the one page guidelines and when SHOULD apears often, much more than MUST?
 
The argument becomes IF the city would have mainatined the buildings, the cost would not have been so high presently, BUT must a municipality maintain a building that has no useful function? I may be wrong, but this seems to fall into a dispute outside the Dispute Resolution organization.
 
Where is the logic flawed on this?    
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 3:30pm

Guests
I will not discuss this matter further.
The families will take their case to Columbus.

We have already donated thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in labor to this project.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 3:41pm
Perhaps the point is, should the thousands of dollars be provided to you by the city for doing their job, maybe a civil matter? Not certain I see the connection to the Dispute Resolution Board and their duty Ms. Moon.     
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 3:52pm
Perhaps the point is, should the thousands of dollars be provided to you by the city for doing their job.

I really don’t understand your comment.
The City has not given me any funds.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 4:23pm
Lets try it again. You are pursuing an avenue from what I read, is better pursued in Butler Cty Common Pleas court, in getting reimbursement for hours and money spent maintaining the cemetary, than the Dispute Resolution Board by the very nature of their inherent responsibilities. The city will say you volunteered your time. Do you want reimbursement for missing plants? The Dispute Board doesn't handle that.  
 
My suggestion, as an outsider, is that appears to be a better recourse, as this will end up like a mediation attempt. City will say under the statute, I believe, they do not have no maintain a building no longer in use. You will say otherwise, and state you spent your time and money maintaining what is their responsibility. The issue will be simple. Is the city responsible for a building not used but has historic significance. I think the Dispute Resolution folks will say that's an issue they won't get involved. 
 
In the past, they did not maintain it, from your viewpoint. They will say they are now. No winners in my opinion, based on the function of the review Board you are meeting.  If its your position the city must spend the funds to maintain the building not in use, under the guidelines of the Dispute Resolution Board, they will punt, and I don't think they'd find a building no longer in use, is required to be maintained by a mere "should" reference.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Molly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 4:43pm
I am dying to get into the old burial grounds. Just bury me underneath he old oak tree!Dead
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 5:10pm

1721.21 Establishment of endowment care trust.

(A) As used in this section:

(1) “Person” means any corporation, company, partnership, individual, or other entity owning or operating a cemetery for the disposition of human remains.

(2) “Cemetery” means any one or a combination of more than one of the following:

(a) A burial ground for earth interments;

(b) A mausoleum for crypt entombments;

(c) A columbarium for the deposit of cremated remains;

(d) A scattering ground for the spreading of cremated remains.

(3) “Interment” means the disposition of human remains by earth burial, entombment, or inurnment.

(4) “Burial right” means the right of earth interment.

(5) “Entombment right” means the right of entombment in a mausoleum.

(6) “Columbarium right” means the right of inurnment in a columbarium for cremated remains.

(B) No person shall operate or continue to operate any cemetery in this state unless an endowment care trust is established and maintained as required by this section.

(C) Any person desiring to operate any cemetery that is organized or developed after July 1, 1970, before offering to sell or selling any burial lot, burial right, entombment right, or columbarium right in that cemetery, shall first establish an endowment care trust, segregated from other assets, and place in that fund a minimum of fifty thousand dollars in cash or in bonds of the United States, this state, or any county or municipal corporation of this state.

Ms. Moon, the penalty and maximum cure as I have read it, is a misdemeanor 3. I struggle to understand how the Dispute Resolution Commission is the proper avenue for your efforts. Does not the city also have a trust set up meeting the state requirements? Could those funds be made available for repair? Under 4757, the term "as needed" will be interpreted in my opinion, on a functioning asset, such as a road, and not a building not in use.
 
I wish you well on your efforts, but think this may be the wrong path to pursue, just my humble opinion.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 5:21pm
Funny- the city can find money to buy two buildings from the Thatcher estate and mothball them until Cincy State or someone else can find a use for them. They can purchase the Manchester Hotel in the hopes that the culinary school will be a success. They can spend money on HUD homes, renovate them and find out that they will not sell and therefore sit idle with money lost in the rehab costs. They can decide not to spend money on street/infrastructure repair for over 30+ years, they can buy the Studio Theatre ladened with asbestos hoping to sell it but never succeeding, only to be on the schedule to demolish, they can hold on to the Swallen's building before they tore it down and spend 90 thou a year in parking garage upkeep before they tore it down. but the same city can't find 65 thou to spend on maintaining the cemetery in a decent manner, including correcting the many years of negligence pertaining to the vault by current and past city administrations. The argument can be made that the city purchased the two mothballed buildings IN THE HOPE that they will eventually be used and create some activity/money-flow downtown (no guarantee of that ever happening by the way)and the cemetery has no value in creating growth/activity or money-flow. Therefore, the purchase of the two dormant buildings is the money better spent. However, as it stands now, neither choice may be the wiser one as to substantiate money being spent on them. It is poor money budgeting by the city the last 30 years that has led to this and many other money problems in this city. No one would run their home or business budgets in this manner. The same city leaders who blow the city's money would never be so stupid as to do the same for their home budget. Or would they?   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 5:37pm

Guests

Are you telling me that I should fear the city may only mow the grass at the cemetery once a year now because of my actions? Well Mr. Guest you have hit the nail on the head..thats whats wrong in this city.
The City uses its power to punish citizens that disagree with their actions.
Ya see Mr. Guest I really believed 6 years ago that I could use my talents to solve the problems at the Middletown Cemetery for the betterment of the entire community. I thought I could promote and help tell the wonderful history of this city with my work at the cemetery. Maybe even help educate the young about our history. I just wanted to save this small piece of history and make the cemetery a beautiful place for the families to visit their loved ones and a place that the community could be proud of for the next 100 years.....

The City needs to do the right thing for this community.
Caring for the dead is a very special mitzvah and is referred to as a true kindness because the recipients cannot reciprocate the kindness.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 5:46pm

Guests

I will say that Mr Landen can not find the records of the perpetual care fund that was set up.

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 10:29pm
Well, then the city is in violation of the statute right? So there you begin to have something. I completely understand your point, and VV's, but you can read that the ORC 4757 makes reference that the Dispute Resolution Commission is charged solely with mediation and conflict resolution.. They aren't even arbitrators. Their job is to coax you and the city to resolve your differences. You can review the considerations they abide are one page, and make reference to "should" maintain buildings.
 
The Commission isn't going to dictate how the city spends its money. The guidelines also simply state mowing SHOULD be monthly, but not that it MUST be monthly. I just believe you both will be disappointed in the outcome of this venue and jurisdiction. They will give no consideration for how much money spent on a theater, or another project. The argument will come down to maintenance of a building (vault) no longer in use.
 
I completely agree with your opinions as a matter of civic decency, it should be mainatined and restored. I also believe I am correct in assuming the city's position is they don't have the money, and as such, won't pay for something that is non functional today. In reading their guidelines, no law was broken, unless you can find precedant that any building must be maintained by an entity as defined by the statute, albeit a barn, a house, and so on. I think this will be thrown back at you and the city to try to work it out, and you have provided the city's response---here's $15,000. My opinion, but I' believe this will be the outcome. 
 
Maybe better to get the Middletown Foundation and a stone mason, to donate more money and pro bono time for labor.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2010 at 11:05pm
BTW, the answer is YES. The city could await 2-3 months to mow, at their discretion, based upon "should" but not "must." In a dry season, they could avoid mowing for a season. The Commission is a mediator, not a trier of fact. They want you and the city to work out your differences. You could probably pull up cases on the website for the group and see how they have acted in the past, when dealing with buildings and a fault.
 
But, I do not believe they will make a municipality repair a building that is non functional, that's a civic issue, and the worse penalty is a misdemeanor. They don't have the authroity to ORDER the city to take out $65,000 and repair the vault.
 
I agree with you and appreciate your desire to maintain the structure. But, statutes are made and applied by interpretation. What may be viewed as morally or historically reprehensible doesn't make it a violation of ORC. JMO, good luck with your effort.  
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