Placer County breaks ground on new coroners facility
Construction on a $28.5 million Placer County coroner’s office and morgue in Roseville began Monday, with county officials saying the new facility is a badly needed improvement from its Auburn location.
At the old location, using the copy machine with a fresh pot of coffee brewing and a heater running would blow the power out. The county had to buy a portable air conditioning unit because the building’s AC wasn’t strong enough for staffers working in the autopsy room. And it doesn’t have nearly the capacity required for handling a mass casualty event like a bus or plane crash.
“It’s just not a building set up for the medical practices that go on inside of it,” said Chief Deputy Coroner David Clark.
The current, “antiquated” facility was built in the 1940s, said Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell, as a hospital that housed wounded soldiers during the war. The building wasn’t made to “handle computers and copy machines and all the electronics we have in an office now a days,” he said.
“The doctors don’t complain, they do their job day in day out,” Clark said. “We have two of the best pathologists in the state of California (and) the conditions they work in, it’s not the setting for their quality of work.”
Located near the Placer Superior Court at 10820 Justice Center Drive, the new 20,000-square-foot coroner’s office will include a 1,800-square-foot autopsy complex with five autopsy stations, an observation platform to view the autopsy and decomposition areas, a Lodox full body X-ray machine and a larger morgue.
Officials hope the new facility will earn a certification from the National Association of Medical Examiners, which the current building does not have. The certification helps ratify a pathologist’s findings when offered in court.
“With our normal level of activity, our morgue fills up,” Bell said. “This new morgue will provide adequate capacity not just for mass causalities, but just day to day operations.”
The project is expected to be completed by winter of 2020.
About $25 million in capital facilities impact fees will pay for the facility, with the rest of the project financed through capital reserve funds from the county.
The chief function of the coroner’s office, overseen by the Sheriff’s Office, is to establish the cause and manner of death. However, it also safeguards a deceased person’s property and being, and makes notifications to next of kin, Bell said during the groundbreaking ceremony Monday.
“We are in many cases the advocate, the last voice for a decedent,” Bell said.