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Coroner to Commission: Where do you put a firing range in the middle of an office building?

Tana Weingartner

Hamilton County Commissioners officially voted Wednesday to 'close the book' on the idea of using the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital for a new crime lab.

Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco says she's not satisfied.

"We're very disappointed that the appropriate people weren't brought together to make just the retrofit happen for the crime lab and the morgue in such a way that the current hospital spaces could have been used without costing the tax payers a whole lot of money," Sammarco says.

The county says it didn't make sense to just renovate a portion of the facility.  And, according to the county, the cost to do the whole thing and maintain the grounds was too high.

Commission President Greg Hartmann has suggested splitting the morgue and crime lab in different facilities but Sammaro warns that could be problematic. For starters, the county owns mostly office buildings.

"Where do you put a firing range in the middle of an office building?," Sammarco asks.

"If you do try to split them up," she says, "we've already discovered there are going to be lots of inefficiencies. So we'll take our most-efficient-crime-lab-in-the-state and make it less efficient. We're talking about a lot more expense; double the staff to cover a lot of the things we're cross-trained on right now that we won't be able to share."

Commissioner Todd Portune is floating another possibility. This week, the federal government announced plans to relocate the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Portune wonders if one of the NIOSH buildings would be suitable for the coroner's office. If so, he says, the federal plan includes money that would help a new tenant renovate the facility.