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posted: 7/1/2014 5:01 AM

Editorial: Sharing morge could save money for Kane, DuPage

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  • The Kane County morgue is a repurposed facility that dates back to the days when the government center was a monastery.

    The Kane County morgue is a repurposed facility that dates back to the days when the government center was a monastery.

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

If there were a real estate listing for morgues, which one would you pick:

The one that has "an isolation autopsy suite that is self-contained with its own x-ray equipment," "a forensic autopsy suite and clinical autopsy suite" and "a special viewing room located next to the forensic autopsy area which allows the autopsy to be viewed by police, investigators, state's attorneys and medical personnel involved in the case. Evidence obtained is stored in a secure manner using up-to-date procedures."

Or the one that has a recently repaired freezer that allowed some bodies to partially thaw last November and a recent outbreak of mold in a "repurposed monastery garage or laundry facility" that has asbestos.

It's no contest that morgue No. 1, the 20-year-old DuPage County morgue as described on the county website, has a big edge over morgue No. 2, the Kane County morgue as described by Kane County Coroner Rob Russell in news stories over the past eight months.

In fact, the mold problem led Russell to move his operations last month to the DuPage County facility in Wheaton.

Now that the mold has been found to be a common, nontoxic variety that could be cleaned up relatively easily, Kane County autopsies could be moved back into the county's morgue 11 miles away in Geneva.

But should they?

Maybe not.

Why not take advantage of the chance to test out a longer-term arrangement to share facilities? It could be a boon to taxpayers in both counties and a model for cost-cutting sharing arrangements across the suburban landscape.

We're somewhat sympathetic to Russell's frustration with Kane County's aging morgue.

We're quite a bit less sympathetic to the ongoing spat between Russell and Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen over the morgue's condition, funding and prospects for a new building.

Lauzen suggests investigating renting space in DuPage County over the long term, and we agree, as long as the driving concern is the bottom line for taxpayers and not the feud between the two Kane County officials.

Sharing morgue space "happens a lot," says Randy W. Dudenbostel, Randolph County coroner and head of the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, who notes that transportation has to be figured into the cost analysis. While state law says every county must have a coroner (or a medical examiner, in the case of Cook County), it doesn't say every county must have a morgue, he notes.

DuPage and Kane counties already have an agreement for DuPage County juvenile offenders to be housed in Kane County, so there is a template for initiating discussions over sharing morgue space. It's time to get the talks underway.

It might be that the evacuation necessitated by concern over the mold in Kane County could turn into a cost-saver for taxpayers across the western suburbs.

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