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An Overview: Cemetery continues to cause a stir

In 2009, a controversy erupted over the Old Presbyterian Cemetery in Lysander.

Last summer, officials looked into allegations of vandalism at the cemetery located at the intersection of Church and Plainville roads in Lysander. Ordering a survey of the abandoned cemetery last July, the Lysander town board intended to have a fence installed around the property in order to define the property and protect it from vandalism and encroachment. Fred Burtch, Jr. opposed the installation of a fence.

When he moved next door six years ago, Burtch took it upon himself to act as the cemetery's caretaker, mowing the lawn and clearing out brush. He also said he returned headstones to the cemetery from neighboring homes.

In May, town officials laid claim to the property and told Burtch to stop maintaining it for reasons of liability. The town board then approved the installation of a chain link fence lining the east and north sides of the cemetery. The fenced in area would include land where Burtch's septic and water drainage lie, a system that was installed before he purchased the property and which would cause a financial hardship should he have to relocate it.

Those rallying around Fred maintain the town has no claim to the cemetery. However, Section 291 of town law states, "It shall be the duty of the town board to remove the grass... and to erect and maintain suitable fences around such cemetery or burial ground."

Joined by a contingent of supporters, Burtch presented a petition with 532 signatures to the board on June 14. The petition would have forced a vote on whether the town should spend an estimated $4,800 to build the fence. On June 28, the town board rescinded the fence resolution after discussing the costs related to holding a referendum, which were estimated around $1,000.

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