Family is upset by a lack of response in cemetery dispute


TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- With the emotions of burying her mother in St. Casimir's Cemetery in May still fresh in her mind, Stephanie Schetner visited her grave Monday finding the "sacrilegious" destruction of the family's burial plot.

"Monday was a very teary experience for my sister and I," Schetner said. "I had to come home and start processing everything."

Tractor-trailers making deliveries to the Amsterdam Industrial Park have been rerouted through St. Casimir's Cemetery for at least the past five years, according to Matthew Constantine, the cemetery's superintendent of buildings and grounds. He said signs discouraging trucks from entering the area have been overlooked or neglected and the trucks often leave a trail of destruction on their way out.

Constantine was able to speak with a truck driver who got stuck in the cemetery and learned that a GPS error led him there.

One of the stones damaged marked six of Schetner's family members' graves -- her parents, two grandparents, her brother and her uncle -- but several other stones, a cement pillar and a large tree, were also damaged. In the past five years, Constantine said, at least 20 stones have seen the same fate.

"My father was willing to give his life for his country," Schetner said. "And [the responsible party] can't face what? The fact that he made a mistake and he had poor judgment and then made it worse by what he did?"

Constantine contacted the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Monday and a deputy investigated the scene and took pictures.

Investigator Theresa Pingitore said the tire tracks and damage are consistent with an 18-wheeler, but there is no additional evidence and they didn't receive any information after speaking with business representatives in the park.

Pingitore said all the sheriff's office can do is increase patrols in the area. The investigation is not ongoing.

She also said there is a chance that the truck drivers may not have noticed the damage, because the vehicles are so large.

Town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza said he tried to help the situation by closing off Park Road, a stretch of pavement leading into the cemetery, to traffic a couple of years ago. Now, he said, he's going to post "No outlet" signs at the start of Cemetery Road.

He said he doesn't understand why trucks are driving through to begin with.

"My heart goes out to the family; it's a terrible situation," DiMezza said. "Unfortunately, this person didn't have the common sense to report it. People don't have the respect they used to."

DiMezza said the town will do whatever it can to help out, but said it is not the town's responsibility to fund repairs, as Schetner believes.

"I don't see how liability lies with the town," DiMezza said. "I don't see how a truck driving down the wrong road is our fault. We'll try to prevent it, but the liability isn't going to fall back on the town."

Schetner said she believes that "No outlet" signs aren't going to help. As of now, there are signs indicating no turnaround permitted, but they have not worked.

She said the sign needs to be blatantly understandable -- No trucks allowed.

"No outlet?" Schetner asked. "Think about it. What does it mean? It means nothing. It needs to be as specific and clear as possible."

Schetner said her other major concern is that the businesses employing the drivers cannot continue to "cover for them."

Several businesses in the park were contacted Monday, but none were familiar with the situation nor took responsibility. The sheriff's department had the same luck.

Schetner doesn't think there is going to be a quick resolution, but she's going to keep at it. She is crafting a letter to the area businesses to ask them to speak with their truck drivers and "be good neighbors."

"They picked the wrong burial plot to run over," Schetner said. "[My husband and I] are too informed and too engaged to let this one go."