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Judge approves public sale of cemetery

VICKSBURG — The Secretary of State Office’s successful effort to clear a $2.2-million debt against Green Acres Cemetery in Vicksburg has cleared the way to place the property up for public sale.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann negotiated the release of the debt with the lienholder at no cost to the state or the cemetery.

Chancellor Barnes ordered the sale in Warren County Chancery Court July 16.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said, “Not only will this public sale help to heal the residents of Vicksburg whose loved ones are buried at Green Acres, but it also begins to close the chapter on cemeteries under Receivership by the Secretary of State.”

Potential bidders will have until 5 p.m. Aug. 31 to inspect the property and submit a sealed bid. Interested parties are asked to contact the Secretary of State’s office at (601) 359-9055 to obtain a bid package. Bids are to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office; Attn: Dave Scott at 700 North Street; Jackson, MS, 39202. The sealed bids will be opened and recommendations will be submitted to Judge Barnes for approval.

Green Acres Cemetery was previously owned by the late Mike Graham of Texas. In order to settle the claim against Graham’s estate, his widow, Linda Graham, and his daughter, Stephanie Graham, agreed to relinquish all ownership interest in the Green Acres property. In addition, Stephanie Graham also relinquished three life insurance policies with a face value of over $550,000 and a cash value of approximately $32,000 to the Green Acres perpetual trust account.

“This agreement only settles the claim between the Secretary of State’s Office and Linda and Stephanie Graham,” said Hosemann. “This does not preclude any private action.”

On March 25, 2009, Judge Barnes placed Green Acres into receivership after an investigation into the cemetery’s financial records showed a $221.60 balance in its pre-need trust account. By conservative estimates, the Secretary of State’s Office believes the account to be deficient by approximately $373,000. Since then, the office has worked diligently to rehabilitate the grounds and the business and to clear the substantial debt against Green Acres.

Unless a plot purchase is funded with insurance coverage, cemeteries are required to trust 85 percent of all pre-need sales for vaults, memorial markers and grave opening/closing services. Additionally, 15 percent must be maintained in a separate perpetual care trust on all sales of grave spaces to ensure the long term care and maintenance of the cemetery grounds.

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