Coroner brought recommendation for a back-up morgue to the commissioners Tuesday
(Lander, Wyo.) – Coroner Mark Stratmoen Tuesday told the county commissioners a back-up morgue for the Riverton area could be located in an empty bay of the Emergency Management Agency’s garage at the Riverton County Shop.
The coroner said he was looking for additional space “for temporary body storage” when the current morgue is full, something he said had happened “several times” in the past year when “we simply ran out of room.” He said the current county morgue in the courthouse in Lander is in a space that used to be the former county jail kitchen. It has a sally port for privacy and a cooler capable of holding three deceased persons, but due to structural limitations, it cannot be expanded.
Stratmoen presented a cost analysis by preferred option to the board on a number of proposals for the morgue. At the top of the list was a reconditioned 20′ long shipping container that would be remodeled, insulated and equipped with a CoolBot air conditioning system and lighting. Stratmoen said the container could be placed inside the bay so it would not be subject to weather.
Benefits of taking this approach were numerous, he wrote in a memo to the board. He said the EMA Garage is conveniently located in Riverton where the need is greatest and that there would be no building costs to create a new facility. He said existing utilities at the site would make operating and installing the facility quick, easy and cost effective. One of the major points he said during his presentation was the security of the location. “It’s a triple-secure facility, with a locked gate, locked building and lockable container,” which he said would be necessary in some law enforcement-related death cases. He said the container could hold, on a temporary basis, from 9 to 12 deceased individuals.
When asked, Stratmoen said he had investigated a number of options, including unused garages, a refrigerated big rig trailer, a used refrigerated shipping container, a wood skid structure and a vinyl shed as examples. He said no other county facilities in Riverton were available, or suitable.
County Maintenance Supervisor J.R. Oakley said the only site he found that could work was the ambulance garage in Shoshoni, but he said it was too far out of town to be convenient. Oakley offered his opinion that the container was the best option.
The Coroner said the estimated cost for acquiring and equipping a container would be just under $6,000, which he said he had available in his budget. He noted that he could acquire such a container locally, which helped reduce the cost.
“We could have it ready in as little as a couple weeks, once we gain approval,” Stratmoen said. The commission did not act on the request Tuesday. Instead Chairman Travis Becker asked the coroner to investigate if a morgue would be allowed with the present city zoning at the site. He also asked for a definitive cost for the facility.