Howard County government officials intend to bid out work to construct a new morgue in downtown Kokomo and to relocate and transplant multiple offices in the near future.
Last week during a meeting of the Howard County Commissioners, the board announced work soon will go out to bid in order to add a new morgue onto the government center and that it will take bids for work associated with relocating multiple government offices. The moves entail shuffling offices within the county’s government center and administration building.
The construction of a morgue has been a long time coming for the county. Currently, the morgue is located at Community Howard Regional Health, but officials began the search for a new morgue in 2017 that would offer more privacy and space. The hospital morgue only has space for two bodies, which can necessitate the coroner housing bodies in outside facilities and sometimes even other counties’ morgues.
According to Howard County Coroner Steve Seele, the yet-to-be-bid-on plans for the new morgue include the construction of a 1,900-square-foot addition on the north end of the government center, which will house a garage and a cooler with space for eight to 12 bodies. There also will be an autopsy area, as well as a space for the coroner to meet with families.
Before landing on the plan to build onto the government center, the county explored building a wholly-new structure to house the morgue on county-owned land or renovating other existing structures.
“This has been a drawn-out thing. We’ve looked at several options, and there’s been some very good options. At the end of the day you try to come up with the most cost-effective way, and this is what we’ve come up with,” said Seele. “This is the avenue we’re headed, and we’ll make it work.”
As for the switching of offices, in all, the Howard County Plan Commission, Howard County Prosecutor’s Office, Howard County Community Corrections, and Howard County Coroner’s Office will be moved.
“The goal here is to create a better efficiency for those offices that work closely together,” said Howard County Commission Paul Wyman.
Presently, the plan commission is located within the Howard County Government Center at 120 E. Mulberry St. within Suite 114. The plan, said Wyman, is to move the commission to the Howard County Administrative Center, located at 220 N. Main St. More specifically, the plan commission’s new home will be on the first floor of the administrative center in the space formerly occupied by Key Bank.
“It’s a little more visible, and since they are frequented more often it is easier access for the public. And it frees up additional space for the coroner’s office,” said Wyman.
Once the plan commission is relocated, the coroner’s office will be relocated from Suite 104 in the government center to where the plan commission presently is located. The move will coincide with the construction of the new morgue for the coroner within the government center.
The other office moves involve systems within the criminal justice system.
Community corrections will be rehomed from the government center on East Mulberry Street to the county courthouse. The goal is for the office to move into the location presently occupied by the prosecutor’s office, which is on the second floor of the courthouse.
“By moving community corrections over to the courthouse, they work very closely with probation and the courts, so that would make it much more efficient for them,” said Wyman.
Lastly, the prosecutor’s office will transfer from the courthouse to the largely-unoccupied fourth floor of the administrative building. This, said Wyman, was being done to allow for more space for the office’s functions.
Wyman said the goal is to bid out the work over the course of the next one or two weeks, and the commissioner claimed the work should not cost more than $1 million.