Coroner to get increase in pay to remove remains

Friday, February 20, 2009

On Thursday the Cape Girardeau County Commission unanimously approved Coroner John Clifton's request for a $50 increase, for a flat rate of $200, to remove and transport bodies from accidents, suicides, homicides and other death scenes.

Since 2005, the county has paid Clifton $150 for removal and transportation of remains, the same rate funeral homes were charging at the time, Clifton said Thursday in a phone interview. But during the last four years, his costs for equipment, insurance and gas have increased, Clifton said. He said his rate is lower than most funeral homes charge. Ford and Sons Funeral Home in Cape Girardeau charges $250 within the 30-mile radius, $350 for transfers to the St. Louis area. McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson charges $215; and $215 more to transport to Farmington plus $15 an hour for wait time.

Clifton said he is able to clear a death scene more quickly himself rather than wait for a funeral home to be called; at times it would take 45 minutes or longer for a funeral home team to arrive.

"It seemed logical to me that if the coroner would show up with the appropriate vehicle, we could cut down the time frame of waiting," he said. "It would also free up the ambulance, fire and law enforcement officers."

In addition to buying his own vehicle and supplies, Clifton operates out of his home, eliminating the county's expense for a coroner's office. Clifton said the county used the savings to lease space from Lorberg Funeral Home to use as a morgue, which also saved the $50 daily minimum paid in the past to area funeral homes for refrigeration and a secure place for homicide victims and unidentified people.

"In dealing with homicide victims, as cold and callous as this sounds, a body has to be treated as evidence and it has to be secure. It's not necessarily secure at a funeral home, so the county agreed to have a morgue set up," he said.

Scott County Coroner Scott Amick, who is a funeral director, said that his or other funeral homes do removal and transportation, but they "don't have the luxury of a cooler."

"We try to maintain dignity and respect in the same manner and hold them until the family makes arrangements with another funeral home," Amick said.

Amick said it costs $100 to use the vehicle plus whatever compensation the state allows for mileage.

Other business

* The commissioners unanimously approved the memorandum of understanding on the Emergency Watershed Protection Program project at the Bean Branch Ditch.

* U.S. General Services Administration sent a letter in response to the commission's request to acquire the former Federal Building at 339 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. The GSA will obtain an appraisal of the fair market value of the property to use in determining the purchase price.

First District Commissioner Paul Koeper expressed concern regarding asbestos in the building.

"They're wiping their hands of it, the way I see it," he said.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said someone needs to inform them of where the asbestos is.

The GSA has been advised by the Department of Health and Human Services of an expression of interest from New Life Evangelistic Center on behalf of the homeless for the property. New Life has until May 6 to submit its application for homeless use.

cwest@semissourian.com

388-3654

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