Study looks at expanding Coroner's Office

Posted

BAY MINETTE – Expansion of the Baldwin County 911 Center could also mean needed additional space to meet growing demands on the county Coroner’s Office, officials said Tuesday.

The Baldwin County Commission voted Tuesday to approve a facility assessment agreement with Crime Lab Design of Southfield, Mich. The study will examine the needs for the Coroner’s Office. Coroner Brian Pierce said that like the 911 Center, the Coroner’s Office has outgrown its current facility and needs more space.

“We need the space. We’re growing so fast,” he said. “The volume of calls that we’re handling has increased dramatically.”

Pierce said Baldwin County’s population has reached 220,000, the fastest growing in the state. In addition, the county receives 6.5 million tourists a year. He said that on some days during the tourist season, the county could have a population of 750,000.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to happen that some of those folks who come down here are going to need our services,” he said. “We need a bigger facility.”

The office does not conduct autopsies. Those examinations are done by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences laboratory in Mobile. The Baldwin County Coroner’s Office, however, does often have to hold bodies awaiting examination or that have not been claimed. Pierce said changes in state regulations now require more time for cases to be processed, increasing the time that bodies might be held and requiring more space for storage.

In the 2018 fiscal year, the Baldwin County Coroner’s Office handled 486 cases. Of those, 179 were sent for autopsy and 375 were ruled as natural deaths. Cases included 39 violent deaths – including car accidents and drownings – 38 suicides, 17 drug-related deaths, seven homicides, three undermined, one infectious death and six pending, according to the office’s annual report.

Pierce said the office also issued 1,200 cremation permits in the last year.

The 911 Center is located on McCauliffe Drive in Robertsdale. A new building for the center is under construction across the street from its current location.

Pierce said moving the Coroner’s Office to the current 911 building from its present location on Baldwin County 54 would give his staff more space and put his office next to the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency and the 911 Center to have more emergency services in the same area.

The study is being conducted at a cost of $10,000.