A Douglas County District Court judge has ordered that the City of Lawrence become the official owner of Memorial Park Cemetery as part of a settlement of a lingering lawsuit related to poor care of the property.
District Judge Robert Fairchild has approved a settlement between the Kansas Attorney General and the owners of the cemetery near 15th and Harper streets in East Lawrence.
The settlement, approved on March 6, bars the cemetery company of Mike Graham & Associates LLC and its officers and directors from ever operating a cemetery in Kansas. It also orders that all the real estate and property at Memorial Park be transferred to the City of Lawrence. It also transfers over the cemetery's "permanent maintenance fund," which is designed to pay for mowing and other maintenance of the property.
It wasn't immediately clear how much was in that fund, but city leaders had long been seeking to have access to the money. The city has been maintaining the cemetery since May 2005, when a Douglas County District Court judge found that the cemetery was in disrepair and that Mike Graham & Associates had not been meeting its responsibilities under the law.
But the city did not take official ownership of the property, because Graham & Associates contested the court's findings. The city has been seeking official ownership of the property, in part, because city leaders said they were not comfortable investing money in major maintenance projects if the city did not own the land.
City attorneys Wednesday morning hadn't yet seen the settlement, and were reserving comment until they had a chance to review the documents.
Although the settlement has been signed by the judge, there is one objection to it. Charles Heinsohn has filed a legal objection claiming that he is owed $45,000 for mowing and other maintenance work that he provided to Mike Graham & Associates. The settlement as it currently is structured allows the property to be transferred to the city, but does not make the city responsible for any previous bills.