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Evergreen Memorial Park may head to auction

Evergreen Memorial Park and Funeral Home may soon be available to the highest bidder, the Merced Superior Court decided this week .

Judge Ronald Hansen on Monday removed an injunction that kept the cemetery from being sold, after a settlement among parties with outstanding loans owed by the cemetery.

Because of the outstanding loans, which total $2.1 million, Evergreen has been in foreclosure since October.

The injunction had been in place since a lawsuit was filed in November. It was filed by attorneys representing Mary Ann Theisen, trustee of the Waybreen Trust, and Mike Metz, successor co-trustee of the Survivor Trust, who were among the parties and investors who loaned Evergreen money last year.

The lawsuit stemmed from a disagreement over priority of the deeds of trusts on the property. "That is, who was entitled to get paid first? That's what this fight has been about all along," said Chris Lampe, an attorney who represented Theisen and Metz.Lampe said the settlement was "fair to all concerned parties," but declined to divulge its terms.

Now, Lampe said, Evergreen will probably be sold at a public auction, although he wouldn't speculate when that would happen. "There could be a third-party buyer who comes along and wants to purchase the property, presumably because they have a license or believe they can get a license to open the cemetery and the crematorium," Lampe said.

If no one bids enough to satisfy the investors, Lampe said the cemetery could end up being owned by a loan services company.Evergreen has been without an operating license since last year. The state has also denied Evergreen's applications for operating licenses twice because Michael Wallace, who the state maintains is the owner of the company that operates Evergreen, owes the state more than $44,000 in unpaid fines and fees.

Wallace owes those fines and fees because of a long list of violations that occurred while he was a director at Madera Funeral Home.

Because of those violations, the state revoked Wallace's funeral establishment license and director's license in 2003.In July, inspectors with the city's code enforcement division visited the cemetery, where they found a water-logged section of carpet in the mausoleum from a leaky pipe and four people living in a cemetery office.

Residents have routinely complained about conditions at the cemetery, including sinking graves, broken headstones, litter and overall poor and dilapidated conditions.

A meeting to discuss the future of Evergreen is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today at the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St., in the Sam Pipes Room. For more information, call Ralph Gonzalez at (209)723-6094.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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