'Final preparations' made for new morgue

St. Francois County Commissioner Patrick Mullins speaks during discussion about final preparations being made to accept property being deeded by BJC Healthcare to the county for a new morgue. A formal announcement about the land gift is expected to be released as early as today.

It appears the wait for the turnover of property by BJC Healthcare to St. Francois County for use as a county morgue is within just days of being over.

At the Tuesday meeting, the St. Francois County Commission unanimously approved a resolution allowing the county to accept a donation of property that, while not officially announced during the motion as being for the new county morgue, will indeed be used for that purpose. The property is at the site of the former Mineral Area Regional Medical Center (MARMC) 

“This is not an announcement — sorry,” said Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher. “Anytime there’s a deed or a title to a piece of property, both the new and the old owner have to approve it. And so ‘hypothetically,’ if someone were to offer us a new piece of property, we need approval beforehand to accept it. And that’s what this all is — it’s just a preparation for the acceptance.”

After Gallaher noted that the resolution had been looked over and approved by the county’s attorney, Commissioner Gay Wilkinson made a motion that the resolution be accepted.

In answer to a question about when the commissioners expect a formal announcement regarding acceptance of the land will be made, Gallaher said, “There’s a lot of paperwork going on [Wednesday], and so, hypothetically, [tomorrow]. We’re going to [announce] it as soon as we can.”

The county has been without a morgue for more than a year since MARMC on Weber Road closed in January 2016 after BJC purchased it — leaving Parkland Health Center’s locations in Farmington and Bonne Terre as the only remaining hospitals in St. Francois County.

Since MARMC’s closure, County Coroner Jim Coplin has been transporting bodies from county calls to a temporary morgue he built on his Park Hills funeral home property. Along with building a cooler large enough to store four bodies, he also put in an office, viewing area and examination room to accommodate the county's needs until commissioners decided what to do.

It wasn’t until more than a year later — at the February 2017 meeting of the Farmington City Council — that Robert Sullivan, development coordinator for the city, announced an application for a boundary adjustment had been submitted by St. Francois County on behalf of Parkland Health Center at the Mineral Area Park. At that time it was said the property would be divided, with a part of MARMC property being donated to the county for use as a morgue.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com



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