The days when Dakota and the other seven counties of the Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner's Office (MRMEO) conduct morgue and medical examiners services out of the cramped, windowless 4,000 square feet of basement space in the Regina Medical Center in Hastings may soon be over.
Early last year, I reported that Dakota County was exploring its options for morgue and medical examiner's services because we were busting out of the seams in the space provided at Regina.
After an exhaustive analysis by Dakota County staff, we believe we may have found the solution … but not where we were initially looking.
My report last year indicated that Dakota County was considering several options including partnering with Anoka County in their new morgue, building a morgue on the campus of the Northfield Hospital, renovating an existing building or building a new morgue in Empire Township.
Well, since then, the focus has shifted entirely to negotiations with Hennepin County to partner with them on morgue and medical examiners services out of either expanded and remodeled space at its current location or relocation to a new site in Hennepin County.
Vikings Stadium Land in Play
As if the issue weren't complicated enough, it further hinges on whether the new Vikings Stadium is built in downtown Minneapolis where proposed. That could trigger a relocation of the medical examiner's facilities, perhaps as Dakota County wants, to a southern Hennepin County suburb.
Hennepin County would not invest the resources necessary for the remodeling and/or relocation of their facilities without a firm commitment of support from Dakota County. They have drafted a cooperative agreement for provision of medical examiner's services.
Dr. Lindsey Thomas, currently under contract as the medical examiner for Dakota County, and MRMEO staff would become Hennepin County employees.
The agreement would run from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2016 subject to renewal.
Dr. Andrew Baker, currently the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, would officially become the Dakota County Medical Examiner.
Dr. Thomas would resign from that role and become his assistant. Ironically, Dr. Baker was once a student of Dr. Thomas. For the four years of this contract, Dakota County was able to negotiate an annual cost not to exceed $1,096,018 for these services.
The above maximum cost could go down depending upon how many of the other Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner's Office (MRMEO) counties join in the partnership with Hennepin County. On July 10, the Board of Commissioners of Scott County, the second largest MRMEO county, voted to join with Hennepin County.
On that same date, the Dakota County Board acting as a committee of the whole took action and stated its intention to enter into a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County subject to the terms of that agreement.