County

Dollars For Death, Ada Is Stiffed

Ada County has yet to turn a shovel full of dirt on the new Coroner’s facility approved by the previous county commishes in 2020, but they have spent in excess of $1,000,000 in rental payments.

The funding scheme subverts the Idaho Constitutional requirement to seek voter approval for debt in excess of one year. The original bond deal was for $46 million, but we are told the costs have increased since initial approval.

Unbeknownst to most folks, Ada County handles autopsies for about 34 of Idaho’s counties, claiming the pathologist fees help pay for the operation of the coroner’s office.

The GUARDIAN is of the strong opinion that Idaho needs a statewide medical examiner or office of forensic pathology. It simply is not appropriate for “The State of Ada” to provide staff and facilities for the rest of the state when it comes to forensic autopsies.

Apparently the folks in Bannock County can see there is money in the deadly business of pathology. The Bannock commishes and some Idaho State University staffers will be pitching the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee at the legislature Wednesday for cash to have their own 13 county regional office–with state of Idaho funding.

To our knowledge, Ada County does not receive any money from the state and if they lose their Eastern Idaho deadly customers it could be taps for the new finance scheme.

Here is the press release from Pocatello:

The Bannock County Commissioners are preparing to travel to the state capitol on Wednesday, March 2, to show support for a proposed East Idaho Forensics Pathology Center. (More details below)

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will meet on Wednesday, 8 a.m. to continue their budget setting meetings. The Commissioners expect the proposed East Idaho Forensics Pathology Center to be on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting as a supplemental appropriation request for Idaho State University’s budget. Agendas are posted here: https://legislature.idaho.gov/lso/bpa/jfac/ [legislature.idaho.gov]

Along with the Commissioners, Chief of Staff Braeden Clayson and I will also be in attendance. I will get images and video with my phone that I can share with whoever is interested. These meetings are also streamed and recorded. Watch here: https://www.idahoptv.org/shows/idahoinsession/jfac/ [idahoptv.org]

More about East Idaho Forensics Pathology Center

The Bannock County Commissioners, Coroner, Sheriff, and Prosecutor offices have found that the current system of sending all autopsies in the state to Ada County’s forensic pathologist team is not sufficient for the growing population needs.

Currently, Ada County performs more than 750 autopsies a year, often prioritizing their own over other counties’ autopsies.

Bannock County Commissioners are proposing a pilot program to establish a forensic pathology center in Pocatello. Bannock County anticipates the center will serve at least 13 east Idaho counties (Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Bonneville, Caribou, Clark, Franklin, Fremont, Jefferson, Madison, Oneida, Power, Teton). The center is needed to provide more autopsy availability to East Idaho law enforcement, provide answers for grieving Idaho families faster, and alleviate the burden on Ada County.

The center would be a partnership with Bannock County and Idaho State University. ISU President Kevin Satterlee has committed an unused space at the Eames Complex on Alvin Ricken Drive in Pocatello for the center. The University’s participation would open the door to the field of forensic study at ISU.

To fund the start of the pilot program, Bannock County Commissioners are willing to invest up to $2 million of the County’s allotted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to pay for renovations and purchase equipment.

In addition, Governor Brad Little has included a $900,000 line item in his 2023 budget to help fund the creation of the center. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Wednesday will vote to approve or deny this line item. If approved, the budget item will go in front of the rest of the legislature for vote.

The program is expected to be self-sustaining through user fees from participating counties and streamlined effectiveness of death investigations.

Emma Iannacone
Public Information Officer
c. (208) 589-9503
emmai@bannockcounty.us

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Do the other 33 counties pay the true cost, or do they receive a subsidy from Ada taxpayers? Where do the other 11 counties get autopsies done? What are their costs? How much could Ada cut their budget if it were a State function?

    EDITOR NOTE– Caeth,
    –costs do not include the cost of repaying the bonds through “rental payments” on the building.
    –Northern counties use Drs. in Spokane and N. Idaho.
    –If state took over the autopsies it would save many hundreds of thousands.

  2. This is interesting stuff, Mr. Guardian, and “flying off the radar” for most Idaho citizens. Thanks for the info.

    I tend to agree with you, that the state should probably oversee autopsies statewide. (Certainly makes more sense than Ada County doing it!)

    But on the other hand, to me it makes sense to decentralize – a Pocatello morgue seems reasonable, and one up north in Coeur d’Alene or Moscow, maybe. (A collaborative effort between the “pros” and medically-oriented college students might be of benefit to everybody.)

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