For rent: morgue space
The Pima medical examiner wants to ensure enough space
The only thing certain in life: death, taxes ... and rent (even after death). Bodies left too long in the Pima County morgue will start amassing fees. Video by kgun9.comvideo
A storage section at the Pima County morgue
Medical Examiner Gregory Hess explains why the morgue will start assessing storage fees in some cases
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Bodies left too long in the Pima County morgue could start amassing fees, after the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance Tuesday morning allowing the Forensic Science Center to charge for storage space.
For private burials, people have 72 hours after notification to pick up a body before the fee of $75 per day kicks in. Government entities have 30 business days following notice by the county before the same fee applies.
Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Hess said the morgue currently has about 100 human remains ready to be picked up. Although they are not posing a problem currently, the overflow of bodies did last summer, when the office had to get additional storage space with a refrigerator truck.
“We added storage fees to the current ordinance that we can so we can bill other counties or other agencies within our county,” Hess said. “It provides us with a mechanism to have an incentive to pick up remains of those who may be in storage at the medical examiner for a long time.”
Because of the all the migrants discovered near the border, the Forensic Science Center had to build an additional outdoor cooler in 2005 for storage. The morgue has space for roughly 240 bodies, but it is able to store 275 right now because some of the human remains are fragmented.
Hess hopes this fee will prevent them from hitting their limit, by providing an incentive for individuals and counties will pick up the remains more quickly – thereby giving the medical examiner’s office more room and more resources.
“Most of the time, it’s other governmental agencies holding us back and so we wanted to have a mechanism in place where we could try to recoup some of these fees so it doesn’t become a burden on the taxpayer,” Hess said.
Hess anticipates charging fees in rare cases -- mainly public fiduciaries of various counties that lag on deciding what to do with unclaimed remains.