County to advertise for rental space to house coroner’s office

Chris Cooper Managing Editor

November 14, 2013

Logan County Coroner Mary Givens played hardball at Tuesday’s Fiscal Court meeting, and it seemed to pay off as magistrates agreed to advertise for a place that Givens could work out of, if not just temporarily.

Givens had asked the county to either find a building or build one that could become the corner’s office/morgue. Magistrates said they were not ready to dive into building something without first looking into what was needed, so they agreed to put Givens in a rental space for the meantime.

Givens has been asking the court for a permanent home for the coroner’s office for over a year, and she says she can’t wait any longer because she cannot do the job she is elected to do without meeting the criteria to keep her in compliance with state regulations.

“We are putting ourselves at a health risk. I cannot properly do what needs to be done,” said a frustrated Givens, adding that she didn’t mean to sound unappreciative, but this issue has drug on now for a year, and something needed to be done as soon as possible.

Givens used words like “contaminants” and “violation,” which brought about her objective for attention to her plight.

When Givens first approached the county in 2012 with an idea of the county having its own morgue, she was well received. The coroner had been using a cooler at Logan Memorial Hospital to place bodies in, however, Givens felt during times of high incident, it would be beneficial for the county to have its own place as well.

The idea quickly became a reality when the county received a three drawer cooler through a grant. Finding a place to put it proved to be much more difficult, however. The City of Russellville offered a space in the Maple Grove Cemetery, an old maintenance building, and Givens moved the equipment in, but there were immediate problems that followed, including no running water, and no privacy.

Mike Humble, who serves as a Chaplin for the Burden Bearers, spoke up at Tuesday’s meeting echoing Givens need.

Humble deals with crisis situations that arise in the county and agreed this issue has dragged on now for over a year.

“In the Biblical days they talked about the dignity of the bodies, and Mary does a good job of that,” said Humble, adding that he had responded to several scenes that were very bloody, and that cleaning up is difficult when there is no running water. “These people need to be cleaned up for families to come and see them, and sometimes identify them,” he said. “This could be you or your family member.”

Humble said he was behind building a space for the coroner, and said he would do anything he could to hurry up the process so the citizens could be taken care of.

Magistrate Bouldin said he felt the court was on the same page and understood the urgency of finding somewhere for Givens to work out of immediately. But added he did think the county needed to investigate all aspects of building an office for the coroner before jumping into the project.

Former Logan County Coroner Phil Gregory was at Tuesday’s court meeting, and was asked by Magistrate Jo Orange if property he owned (the old Sanders Funeral Home) could be rented. Gregory said he wasn’t sure, but agreed with Givens about a space for the coroner to work out of.

“I didn’t come today to talk about this, but Mary is right. I was coroner for 13 years and the coroner’s office has never had the resources needed to perform the job to the fullest. We always had to beg and borrow for everything, and what Mary is telling you is correct,” said Gregory. “I’d love to see a facility. You know when there is a homicide, the coroner is more important that the sheriff.”

In the meantime magistrates will begin looking into building a space for the coroner’s office, but first they want to know what exactly they will need in such a space. The rented space will secure an immediate need, while allowing the court the time it takes to properly do their homework.

In 2013 thus far, Givens responded to 78 calls.