Status of George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens still uncertain

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — You shouldn’t have to worry about who will care for a loved one’s grave or whether you will be able to visit, but those are two questions people are asking, amid the rumored closing of a cemetery.

A grave is supposed to be permanent that’s something many of us may take for granted, but the thought of having no one around to care for it- or preserve access is scary to a lot of people.

As we continue to uncover details about George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens we’re gaining insight into what often happens under these circumstances, but we’re still missing some pieces of this puzzle.

“Most of my family is buried out here. So we’re, we’re trying to find out are they closing down, to we need to try to keep it up something- because we haven’t heard from the people that own the place it’s like they just closed down and left,” said Jimmy Pollnitz.

There are no official notices of possible closure posted at the cemetery, but one family has posted their own note asking for answers. As we first reported more than a week ago the listed phone number is disconnected with no forwarding number.

“It’s frustrating, because your calling every day and all your getting is a…nothing,” said Jimmy Hollis.

So far there has been no word about what concerned stake holders can expect, at least not from the management.

The President of the Association of Alabama Cemeteries Roger Gasque, says perpetual care cemeteries aren’t allowed to file for bankruptcy if they are registered as preneed certificate holders with the Alabama Department of Insurance. When they can’t meet their obligations, they may be placed into receivership by the state department of insurance.  But the Alabama Department of Insurance says there’s no record of that happening at George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens. In fact-spokesperson Mark Fowler says they have no reporting from it whatsoever, but there are signs that it might be an endowment fund cemetery.

We turned to a local funeral home co-owner for his insight.

“As a person who’s in the field, I know every time I carry a body, a family out there to lay their loved one to rest, they made me pay. You had to pay before the service or there was no committal. So I, I’m sure, they were getting income,” said Dr. Bernard Williams, Co-owner of Westside Funeral Home and Pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

The state department of insurance reports getting phone calls and emails about the cemetery since we first launched our investigation.

The Jefferson County Property Tax Assessor and Collector’s Office says there are no delinquent state taxes shown for the property.

We’ll continue pushing for answers and sharing whatever we find.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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