Kane County's morgue may be able to reopen after a quick removal of what now appears to be common, nontoxic mold. But an arrangement already in place to use DuPage County's facilities for morgue operations might yet prove to be a permanent solution to ongoing disagreements between Kane County Coroner Rob Russell and County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.
Russell shuttered the morgue about two weeks ago after facilities management staff discovered the mold. Russell, in an interview Wednesday, said when the staff members didn't immediately communicate to him how to address the mold, he did his own research and decided it would be better to be safe than sorry.
"This is not some kind of conspiracy," Russell said. "I'm not the one who found the mold. But if it's not a big deal like Mr. Lauzen seems to think, then why does it need to be remediated?"
Following the closure of the morgue, both Russell and Lauzen hired different mold testing companies to investigate. Both companies determined the mold was nothing more than anyone might find in a common refrigerator. A simple, but deep, cleaning will remedy the situation.
But it won't repair Lauzen's view of how Russell handled the situation. He blames Russell for causing the mold because he has not yet spent money the county board gave him this year to upgrade his body and evidence storage infrastructure. Russell said replacing such equipment while it is still usable is like putting new tires on a car with 200,000 miles.
He's continuing to push for a new morgue, even if it's four years away and it proves most cost effective for the county to rent out DuPage's morgue that entire time.
Lauzen said he's interested in examining the agreement with DuPage as a possible permanent relationship that would eliminate the need for either a current or new morgue in Kane County.
"Of course that's possible," Lauzen said. "The bottom line is let's look at the numbers and see if we can save money."
The legality of such a permanent switch is unclear. State law says county boards can eliminate the coroner's office through a referendum-supported board resolution. But the duties of the coroner must then be assumed by another county officer. It's not clear if the morgue or the entire sum of the coroner's duties can be permanently transferred to another county.