BATH TOWNSHIP — A Bath Township employee has been suspended with pay pending trustees’ review of an incident that occurred at Byron Cemetery Feb. 20, resulting in the closing of the cemetery for two days.
The board of trustees confirmed their decision to place Matthew Trimbach, a member of the cemetery grounds crew, on paid leave following a closed-door, executive session held after the township meeting Feb. 20.
According to Township Trustee Tom Pitstick, Trimbach was clearing snow off the cemetery roadway when the buildup snow toppled over at least 50 headstones and shifted approximately 20-to-30 headstones on their foundations.
“One of our employees was driving the snowplow, and the heavy, wet snow mounted up quickly and knocked down a significant number of headstones,” Pitstick said during a telephone interview Feb. 20. “It was the large amount of buildup snow that knocked over the headstones, not the snowplow.”
Pitstick noted that township officials had contacted Dodds Memorials, a local monument service, to help reerect a number of toppled headstones. Pitstick said township officials sent Trimbach home and closed the cemetery to the public immediately following the incident.
Township Cemetery Supervisor Teresa Phillips said township officials would be notifying all cemetery patrons who gravestones were toppled, shifted or possibly damaged.
“It is going to be a process, but we will be contacting those people who we have contact information on file,” Phillips said.
Phillips further explained that the headstones directly affected by the incident are located next to the roadway in sections seven and eight from the main entrance to the rear of the cemetery. She also noted that the cemetery grounds crew would be inspecting each headstone thoroughly for any possible damage.
“These headstones are in the center sections of the cemetery. So far, we have not discovered any damaged headstones. They just fell over in the snow,” Phillips said. “We will be working all day tomorrow (Thursday). Once we have examined all of the headstones, we might find some damaged. Dodds will also be looking at them very closely in the days ahead. Anything that needs to be done will be done.”
Township resident Joe Batman asked if the township’s insurance provider would cover the costs of any repairs, service, and labor. Pitstick said the trustees were “looking into that matter.”
“We will make everything all right,” said Pitstick. “If any headstone is damaged, it will be sent out for repairs and resurfacing.”
Township resident Zach Pitstick asked if Trimbach had undergone any drug testing as part of a township protocol or policy involving an accident that causes significant damage. Pitstick explained that the township only follows such a protocol involving employees of the township road department.
“This incident happened on private property, so we did not perform a drug test. However, we do perform random drug testing, and this individual has never had any drug issues,” Pitstick said.
Pitstick confirmed during a telephone interview Feb. 22 that all toppled headstones were reerected and in place on their foundations.
“We will be going back and checking the alignment of each headstone,” Pitstick said.
In other related business, the cemetery grounds crew is gearing up for its yearly spring cleanup. According to Byron Cemetery regulations, all winter decorations must be removed by March 1 to prepare for the mowing season. Phillips said a sign has been posted at the entrance of the cemetery to remind all patrons.
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.