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Archive for Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Cemetery case

January 18, 2005

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It's good to see progress in the case seeking to correct maintenance problems at a local cemetery.

The case against the owners of Lawrence Memorial Park Cemetery has found its way to the Kansas attorney general, who hopefully will pursue the matter vigorously.

In October, the Kansas Secretary of State's Office found the cemetery's owners, Mark Graham & Associates of Houston, to be in violation of a state law that requires private cemeteries to deposit 15 percent of the lots' purchase price -- or at least $25 per plot -- into a permanent maintenance fund. When the cemetery owners failed to get the funding up to the required levels by the Dec. 31 deadline, the matter was turned over to the attorney general for investigation and possible legal action.

Private owners who want to operate cemeteries with the goal of maximizing their profits may be in the wrong business. Although a well-maintained cemetery can be a profitable business, cutting corners on management or maintenance isn't likely to go unnoticed for long. A cemetery may be a business, but the people who visit the graves of their loved ones have a huge personal and emotional investment in how the property is maintained.

If the Memorial Park issue isn't resolved, the cemetery could be placed in receivership and turned over to the appropriate governmental body, which an AG's spokesman said probably would be the city of Lawrence or Douglas County. That would please many of the people who have lodged complaints. Public oversight of the cemetery likely would clean up the operation's finances as well as the grounds.

Perhaps this issue can be resolved with the cemetery's current owners, but if not, the state should move ahead with action that will place the cemetery under public supervision. Allowing the cemetery to linger in disrepair shows a lack of respect for the people buried there, as well as the owners' legal obligation.

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