JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – The first official statement issued on behalf of a recently closed cemetery provides a little encouragement for families with relatives buried in the cemetery.
That statement, however, provided few solid answers about the future of George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens. Last Thursday marked the first official statement released on behalf of the cemetery since its recent closure.
It coincided with a town hall meeting on the topic of the cemetery which brought hundreds of people out to Jackson Olin High School.
The meeting was organized by State Rep. Juandalynn Givan. A couple of times in the meeting the crowd was asked for a show of hands. That included a question about purchased grave markers which was followed by a number of arms being raised.
“How many of you paid for markers that have not been placed down…or misplaced let me say?” said Rep. Givan.
The statement sent by attorney Fred Garfield indicates that he has been retained to help look at the cemetery, its business condition, assets, liabilities and options.
While it didn’t provide a solid answer it did touch on the topic of the cemetery’s future saying quote:
“Ownership and management are exploring options about the continued operation of the cemetery, which may include a change of ownership and management.
The cemetery asks for your patience during this period of transition. The grounds are open for those wishing to visit loved ones. The cemetery maintains a perpetual care trust fund with significant funds on deposit that helps provide for the continued maintenance of the cemetery grounds.”
The Management of George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens, Inc.
All endowment care cemeteries are required to submit annual endowment care trust fund reports to the Alabama Department of Insurance. As we first reported last month a spokesperson for ALDOI says it never received any reporting from the cemetery in question.
We also reported and reiterated Thursday that an Alabama Department of Insurance spokesperson says it never received an Annual Endowment Care Trust Fund report from George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens.
According to ALDOI.gov, all Alabama cemeteries which have charged fees for interment rights since April 30th, 2002 are Endowment Care Cemeteries with a couple of exceptions for those owned by religious or government entities.
Representative Givan told the crowd at last Thursday’s meeting that she was going to contact the attorney who released the statement.
“So I can find out a little bit more about this trust fund that I’ve already been told by the Department of Insurance that does not exist,” said Rep. Givan.
Rep. Rod Scott offered this prediction:
“There is an endowment for the maintenance of the facility, but I will guarantee you that it’s only 25,000 dollars because that’s the minimum set by Alabama State law. So that’s not going to be sufficient for the maintenance of the cemetery,” said Rep. Rod Scott.
They passed out forms with addresses for the Alabama Department of Insurance, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, and the Governor’s Office.
A number of people told us they plan to send their documentation immediately.
“We shouldn’t have to go over there and clean our relative’s gravesites over. And I want everything nice and neat. I don’t want nobody in any of my graves. I want some answers,” said Emma Bozeman.
“It’s really heart wrenching to see this come to this point,” said Linda Mason.
We did reach out to the attorney who issued the statement, but he was unavailable for comment on Sunday. We will follow up on this continuing investigation this week.
More information about the Alabama Department of Insurance and its role in regulating certain cemeteries and funeral homes can be found out that following links.