LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Lamar County Board of Supervisors approved plans Monday to establish a morgue and purchase a transport van for the county corner.
"Just in an ongoing conversation with the coroner this year, he felt it was the best thing to do, and the board agreed," said Jody Waits, Lamar County administrator. "But it's kind of been a conversation we've had most of this calendar year, and so with our new budget, we built it in."
Right now, the county coroner's office contracts for both transportation and morgue services.
"Since I took office, I've been kind of pushing for us to have our own county morgue facility instead of having to use third party services for that," said Cody Creel, Lamar County Coroner.
Waits said, "Currently, he would contract with any local funeral home or morgue to take care of that service for us now. A county of our size, a county of our resources, we feel it's best for our citizens if we take care of the transportation and morgue services ourselves. It puts it in the control of our coroner, and the end result is better for the families we think."
Creel said, "With us being the second fastest growing county in the state, we handle a large number of cases every year, so this is something that we've needed for some time now."
Creel said county having its own facility should improve accountability and efficiency, which should in turn benefit families of victims.
"We know that if there was ever a questionable case, we make sure the body is always under our supervision before it gets to autopsy," he said. "It just just kind of instills a sense of security in the family members of the victims. We're able to handle that ourselves, which is going to lighten the burden on those families of having to wait longer on their loved one"
Waits said instead of building a new facility, the county will repurpose a building at the Lamar County Emergency Management facility.
"Using an existing facility that we have, a building on the property where our emergency management is," Waits said. "It's got a locked and coded gate, and then the building itself will lend itself perfectly to be used as a morgue. Then (we will) order and buy them the things that we need to put in there to properly run a morgue."
Waits said the county has budgeted $30,000 for both the van and the morgue, but said they should lead to savings and better service long term.
"The upfront budget to set it up is $30,000, but then annually, it'll actually be a savings," Waits said. "(It's) not necessarily why we're doing it, but it would result (in savings) because we won't be paying someone to transport and to use their morgue. We'll be using it ourselves, and that cost will stay in the county."
Creel said, "It's a pretty big chunk of money we're having to pay out every year on these types of services. In the long run, it's going to save the county money, which is always a big concern, being stewards with our taxpayer dollars. I believe that instead of having to pay someone to handle these services, we'll do it all in house, and it'll actually save money and open up room in the budget to improve roads and schools and some other things such as that."
Waits said the county hopes to have everything in place in about 30 days.