Madison County Commissioners approve cooler as storage for bodies reaches capacity

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ANDERSON, Ind.– We have new information in a story we first brought you this month about the Madison County Coroner’s Office running out of space.

Tuesday morning, the county commissioners approved a more permanent solution during a heated public meeting. 

Two weeks ago, the coroner’s office reported they had reached full storage capacity and the county commissioners passed an emergency ordinance for a temporary cooler to provide additional space.

Tuesday, they approved a self-sufficient cooler to store a dozen or more bodies.

The cooler will store a dozen or more bodies and will cost $18,000, which will come from the commissioner’s general fund.

Madison County does not have a morgue, which is something Coroner Dr. Troy Abbott has been asking for with the $25 million of CARES Act funds given to the county.

“You have to remember the COVID money from the federal government and FEMA is for those departments adversely affected by COVID and we’ve gotten none,” Dr. Abbott said.

“This will be more efficient and give a long-term solution to this problem until a more permanent fix is in place,” said John Richwine, Madison County Commissioner.

We asked Richwine if the board is considering using a portion of the $25 million from CARES Act dollars for a morgue. 

“When going through that process, I think there’s some things out of that that might be able to be earmarked for that morgue, but I am not certain it will be the entire portion,” Richwine said.

Richwine says he wants to build a morgue when the county builds the proposed new jail—but the coroner says the need is too great to wait. 

“Three years ago, there was a total number of coroner deaths of 177,” Dr. Abbott said. “As of yesterday, we’re at 186 and have three and a half months to go.”

“Under the increased demands of the coroner epidemic among the pandemic, we need extra funds because we are having extra deaths,” Dr. Abbott said.

The county council did not respond to our request for an interview.

The new cooler is expected to arrive in the next 30 days. 

In the meantime, the current cooler will remain in place. 

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