The Pulaski County coroner will soon have a dedicated morgue and office. The county council and commissioners voted Monday to purchase the former Winamac Masonic Lodge at 108 North Franklin Street for $50,000.
Chief Deputy Coroner Jon Frain explained that the purchase comes after nearly six months of negotiations with the building’s current owner, the Royal Center Masonic Lodge. “The building is like 5,000 square feet, built in 1976,” Frain said. “It sits on five parcels of town property. It has a parking lot. It is located across the street from the current town police station. It is a square, concrete building that’s very easy to use in a multitude of ways. It has a brand new roof and HVAC system.”
Frain said the facility will provide plenty of space to meet with families, store files and evidence, and set up an office. He explained that the current kitchen could be transformed into an autopsy room, while the current dining room could be used for body storage and identification.
Meanwhile, the meeting room on the south side of the building could be used by other county offices. Council member Ken Boswell pointed out that could come in handy, should renovations be needed on the aging courthouse.
Coroner John Behny added that Pulaski County would also be able to make some extra money by charging other county coroners to use the new facility. “Other counties have actually approached us because their relationships with where they’re storing and doing examination is not ideal,” Behny said. “They’re having fights with their executives. We would be a feasible option, where they’re able to find a secure, appropriate place to do what they need to do.”
Behny and Frain said that the cost of converting the building into a morgue would be minimal. They said that some office furniture would come with the building, while the Coroner’s Office already has a cooler that could be moved into the building.
Maintenance Supervisor Jeff Johnston said that minor upgrades would have to be made to the entrance and restrooms, to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He thought the cost would be under $20,000.
The council and commissioners plan to appropriate $70,000 in Riverboat funds, to purchase the building and make the necessary upgrades. The additional appropriation will be up for final approval during the county council’s July meeting.