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New Facility For Coroner Instead Of Renovated Building

Bill Rinehart

Hamilton County should build a brand new crime lab and coroner's office instead of renovating an existing structure.

Commissioners accepted that recommendation from administration Monday.

Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says a new facility is estimated to cost about $40 million.

Assistant County Administrator Jeff Aluotto says multiple existing properties were considered, but in the end, building new is a better option.

"(There are) a lot of different surprises that can potentially come with renovating a facility as well as challenges with just adaptively reusing a facility that's built for an entirely different purpose for a use as unique as a crime lab," Aluotto says.

Now, he says the administration will meet with Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco to talk about what her office needs when it comes to a site.

"So that we know exactly what we're looking for, and most immediately, to compare that against the plethora of county-owned sites and county-owned properties that we currently have to ensure… those would certainly be on the top of our list."

Aluotto says other sites owned by other communities and by private entities will also be considered.

A study completed in 2012 indicated the crime lab needed approximately 93,000 square feet of space. Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco says a recent assessment mirrored that finding. She says the current facility is 43 years old, covers 35,000 square feet, and is inadequate.

"It limits how many people we can have working, it limits the number of cases we can work simultaneously," Sammarco says. "We have limitation in cooler space."

"Sometimes people wonder why does it take so long to process evidence," the coroner says. "Well, a lot of times it's because we can only open one case at a time in different sections because we don't have the space to open more than one without risking contamination."