The solution, if there is one, for families who have loved ones at American Mausoleum isn’t likely to come quickly enough. After an hourlong "brainstorming" session Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the consensus among the half-dozen or so people with family entombed at the North Allen Road facility was they, barring a miracle, will likely have to find location for their loved ones.
The solution, if there is one, for families who have loved ones at American Mausoleum isn’t likely to come quickly enough.
After an hourlong "brainstorming" session Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the consensus among the half-dozen or so people with family entombed at the North Allen Road facility was they, barring a miracle, will likely have to find location for their loved ones.
"When I move him … I know I am going to have to … it is going to be like living his death all over again. It’s like he is not at rest," said Carla Klicker of Glasford whose son, Kevin Henderson, is entombed there after dying in a February 1996 car accident.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Perkins led the efforts during the hearing to try to come up with a solution that would allow the mausoleum to remain open. It appeared he was hamstrung by federal law which doesn’t give him the outright power to appoint a receiver to manage the facility while the bankruptcy progresses.
Perkins himself appeared to be leaning toward "abstaining" -- a move that would effectively dismiss the bankruptcy filing.
He indicated he considered such action because he believed to continue wasn’t in the best interests of the families, and there was no relief in the bankruptcy court. A hearing was set for April 15 in Perkins’ courtroom on the abstention issue.
Allen Mayer, special counsel for Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, told the judge his office is beginning a thorough audit of American’s books, which could take several days. Last week, an official for Hynes said a preliminary audit in May showed no problems with those accounts.
If Perkins did abstain, it would likely put the affair in Peoria County Circuit Court, where several options could play out.
The Comptroller’s office, which has authority over cemeteries, could ask a judge to appoint a receiver to watch over the perpetual care and pre-need trust funds. Under that scenario, the state could ask, as a way to protect the families, to allow the receiver to use some of that money to pay to keep the mausoleum open. Normally, those trust funds are limited to their intended purposes, but the theory is if the mausoleum is kept up, there is a better chance that it could be sold and remain open.
Another option is for the current mortgage holder to begin a foreclosure action, and again, ask for a receiver to use some of the trust fund money to keep the lights on. American owes about $500,000 on its mortgage. Its attorney, Gary Rafool, told Perkins that his client has tried for nearly a year to find a buyer without any success. The current mortgage holder, which used to operate the mausoleum, has said it didn’t want to take it back over.
"If the mortgage holder is not interested, that is a bad sign," Perkins said. "There is really no hope of finding a buyer."
The final option is for some of the family members to simply sue in state court but Perkins noted that would be costly and appeared to be the least amicable.
Last week, Wilton Services LLC, which does business as American Mausoleum, filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy. There had been hope a trustee, appointed to watch over money designated for perpetual care and pre-need contracts, might take over the facility. That seemed unlikely Tuesday.
The trustee, Richard Barber of Galesburg, indicated he didn’t think it would be a good idea. That’s because there is no money in the bank and any attempts to keep the building open and the lights on would cost $5,000 a month plus the $9,000 mortgage payment. There’s just no money for that, he told the judge.
The state can’t take over the facility outright as there is no provision for such a move.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or email@example.com.