Bill would protect cemetery customers

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District 2 Rep. Nick Bain (D-Alcorn) is on a mission to ensure perpetual care cemeteries in Mississippi become fully funded.

Following the state’s takeover of Corinth’s Forrest Memorial Park cemetery several years ago, it was learned that the Secretary of State’s office placed in control of the cemetery did not have adequate funding for maintenance.

The state is prohibited by law from spending taxpayer dollars on property cleanup. Only money generated from burials or other funds left over from previous owners can be spent on the property.

People who had purchased plots at the cemetery had lost the plot and their money.

Bain will introduce a bill for legislation this month that will require perpetual care cemetery operators to post a bond in order to operate this type of cemetery.

“This is a way to offer a measure of protection and security for families,” said Bain. “I have consulted with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and he agrees, this is an important step in securing the integrity of families’ investments in their chosen place of rest.”

Bain said the bill would not be retroactive, but would help keep a similar Forrest Memorial situation from happening elsewhere in the state.

“Unfortunately there’s not much that can be done for the people who lost their monies at Forrest Memorial, but if this bill becomes law then for those people who purchase cemetery plots in the future their money will be secure because the person who owns the cemetery will have to be bonded,” he said. “It’s really embarrassing that a law like this isn’t already in place.”

Bain said private cemeteries would be exempt from the law.

Forrest Memorial Park and Oaklawn Cemetery in Booneville were placed in receivership under the control of the state in Nov. 2011 after an investigation had uncovered a deficiency of more than $500,000 in pre-need trust accounts at the two cemeteries.

The previous owner, Wayne Hight, pleaded guilty to four counts of misapplying or converting pre-need burial funds. He was sentenced to jail time and was ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

“Mississippians deserve the comfort of knowing their final resting place in private cemeteries will be properly maintained in perpetuity,” said Hosemann.

By Zack Steen for Daily Corinthian

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