HAVERHILL — The trustees of Hilldale Cemetery said they are owed thousands of dollars to pay for the upkeep of veterans' graves.

Two of the trustees, Thomas Spitalere and William Copland, are scheduled to address the City Council tonight on the issue.

Spitalere said the federal government gives money to states to maintain the graves of veterans. The states, in turn, distribute the cash to cities and towns, which are supposed to give the money to cemeteries based on the number of veterans buried on their grounds, Spitalere said.

He said he based his assertion on conversations with several Massachusetts veterans agents.

Spitalere, Copland and the third Hilldale trustee, Theresa Brown, took over the management of Hilldale Cemetery at the beginning of 2009. Since then, they have worked to improve the grounds and keep out riders of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.

"We haven't received a check from the city," Spitalere said. "We want to know how much has been allocated to Hilldale in the past."

While Hilldale hasn't been receiving money from the city recently, there is a precedent, Spitalere said. Brown found a record of an annual payment of $1,200 the city made to the cemetery back in the 1980s, he said.

Hilldale, between the avenue of the same name and Little River, is the final resting place of hundreds of Haverhill veterans, Spitalere said. Just from the Civil War, there are 300 veterans' graves on Soldiers' Hill in the burial ground, he said.

"We have veterans' graves from the French and Indian War to at least the Vietnam War," Spitalere said.

So far, the Hilldale trustees have raised money for the cemetery's upkeep by organizing fundraisers, such as the ghost hunt planned for Saturday night and a yard sale expected to take place next month, Spitalere said.

"None of us are drawing a paycheck," Spitalere said.

Any money they raise goes to maintenance, he said.

"I'd have to listen to the pitch," City Council President Michael Hart said when asked for his opinion of the Hilldale trustees' request.

Councilor William Macek, who agreed to introduce the trustees at tonight's meeting, also said he wants to learn more about the issue.

"I did that as a courtesy to a constituent," he said when asked why he put the matter on the agenda.

If the city is entitled to receive federal funding for the maintenance of veterans' graves, "it should be equally distributed among the cemeteries," Macek said.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. in its chambers on the second floor of City Hall.


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