Park County has at least in the short term found a place to keep its deceased.
“It is about the only really feasible, temporary solution that we have,” county coroner Tim Power said.
The county will use a garage bay at the Park County Law Enforcement Center temporarily to refrigerate corpses being analyzed in county investigations.
Power first announced at a May 21 county commissioner meeting Ballard Funeral Home no longer has space to allow the county to use its facilities in order to refrigerate corpses being analyzed in county investigations. On June 4, Power returned before the commissioners and said Ballard has given the county two weeks until it must move its bodies.
“We’ve got to have somewhere to go,” he said.
Power said funeral homes around the state are slowly starting to no longer allow counties to use their spaces as certain coroners are not re-elected and new owners take over the businesses.
At Ballard, their purchase of a new refrigeration unit eliminated space for the county’s equipment.
Although the new location is a viable solution, it is also a temporary one.
“Certainly if it carries on for years, we’re masters of eviction at the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Scott Steward said.
In the long term the county will consider a .5-.75 acre parcel on the Enforcement Center property that has sat vacant and unused since the facility opened in 2006.
“That would not impede further expansion,” county commissioner Jake Fulkerson said. “That is truly excess land.”
Steward said that location would be in ideal proximity to his facility because of the many cases the sheriff’s office and Power coordinate together.
“We work so closely with the coroner after dealing with a death,” Steward said. “This would make it that much closer … rather than look at land I think this would be an ideal location to be right there.”
Fulkerson said he had recommended the old law enforcement center as a possible option too but it was determined that this was not feasible. Mike Garza, building and grounds superintendent for Park County, said they are also considering the former public works building, where one of the shops could be converted to store cadavers, but he said this option would be costly.
“It would be pretty expensive to convert a space over there for that use,” he said.
Power mentioned a “magnificent” morgue Big Horn County recently built in Basin, that cost the county around $850,000. That new building now saves Park County time and money, no longer having to travel to Sheridan for about 50 percent of its’ autopsies.
Power had no cost estimation for the new facility other than it would be cheaper than Big Horn’s and would not facilitate autopsies.
“We don’t need what they built down there,” he said.
Power said the facility could be limited to an exam room, office, handicap-compliant bathroom, air conditioning and refrigeration unit.
Garza was instructed to coordinate with Brian Edwards, county engineer, to develop a design package for the project. The commissioners will start looking at this project when they develop their next fiscal budget.