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August 7, 2013

Condition of historic cemetery called disgraceful

Trustees lack money to take care of grounds, city considers options

HAVERHILL — Deplorable. Disgraceful. Embarrassing. A neglected mess.

Those were of some of the words used by neighbors and city councilors last night to describe the appearance and condition of Hilldale Cemetery — a historical burial ground where dozens if not hundreds of military veterans are buried.

City Council took up the condition of the privately-owned cemetery at the request of resident Marguerite Carifio, who lives on nearby Jeffrey Lane.

“They were doing a very good job for the first few years and I applauded them,” she said of the Hilldale Cemetery trustees, who took over the site in 2009. “But then all of a sudden it came to a halt. I understand they don’t have much money, but if they opted to take it over, they need to keep it mowed and cleaned.”

City Councilor Michael Hart said he visited the cemetery recently to judge its condition for himself.

“I could not believe the deplorable condition it was in,” Hart said. “There is overgrown brush and shrubs covering every grave. It’s a completely neglected mess and it’s such a shame.”

Carifio also told councilors the gated entrance is kept locked at all times, keeping vehicles from getting inside.

“I’ve seen people park out on the street and have to walk in to see their relatives,” she said. “I recently saw some people who walked in and couldn’t even find their relative’s grave due to the mess.”

The cemetery has suffered from not only poor upkeep, but also vandalism and illegal dumping in recent years.

The council agree to invite Thomas Spitalere, chairman of the cemetery trustees, to an upcoming meeting to discuss the board’s plan for maintaining the property. Hart said he would also send a letter to City Solicitor William Cox to see if the there are any laws the city can use to force the trustees to do better.

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