JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Months after the I-TEAM documented more bodies arriving at the Medical Examiner's Office in Jacksonville than they can handle, City Council approved emergency funding to get the office more space.
The unanimous approval by Council Tuesday night funds $206,000 for new refrigerated space to hold 40 additional bodies awaiting autopsy or pickup by funeral homes, plus supporting equipment and a new mobile unit. Of that funding, $26,325 would be used for a mobile office, $86,880 for an outdoor walk-in morgue cooler and $87,775.12 for morgue equipment, as well as other associated costs.
But councilman and Finance Committee chairman Garrett Dennis called that move a only a bandage for the growing problem that opioid overdoses and the city's soaring homicides.
"There is a crisis going on at our Medical Examiner’s Office, with bodies coming in every day," Dennis said Tuesday. "The report today was 10 bodies that came in today, so there is overcrowding. We are out of space."
During the Council meeting, Dennis also presented an amendment that would hold the administration and City Council accountable to getting a new Medical Examiner’s building sooner than planned.
"In our capital improvement plan, we have the Medical Examiner's new building for five years out," Dennis said. "This floor amendment will move the new building from beyond five years, that could be 10 or 15 (years), to four years, so a new building would be in place or the funding would be in place the fourth year."
Dennis said the Medical Examiner’s problems will not be fully resolved unless city leaders work together to get a new building.
Dennis' amendment did not pass.