The Norman Transcript

October 5, 2013

Board plans new ME’s office

Associated Press
The Associated Press

EDMOND — An Oklahoma board intends to meet next Thursday to hammer out plans to build a new medical examiner’s office now that the state Supreme Court has ruled that selling school-related bonds to pay for its construction is legal.

Justices last week said Oklahoma could raise $38.5 million through bonds authorized in a finance program designed for colleges and universities. The new medical examiner’s office will be built at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

“We’re waiting on the bonds to be sold now,” Chris Ferguson, who represents the Oklahoma Funeral Board on the Medical Legal Board of Investigations, told the Journal Record newspaper of Oklahoma City. “I expect we will have a strategy meeting and put together a committee to make plans and get started.”

The court ruled Sept. 25 that using bonds earmarked for higher education could be used for the project. The court became involved after a legislator complained that any state agency could partner with a college and qualify for financing.

“Need to build a new state prison or want to build a new state-owned museum?” Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said in a statement. “Well, then find a college campus with some extra land and build the facility through the Master Lease Program.”

But supporters said building the medical examiner’s office on a college campus will save money.

The investigations board has long sought a new building for the medical examiner. In 2009, the ME’s office lost its national accreditation, in part because its building was four decades old.

“A lot of the current equipment in the morgue dates back to the ’70s,” Ferguson said. “Our present facility is far too small and doesn’t even have the proper ventilation. It causes real problems for the staff and the equipment.”

A new headquarters is expected to cost about $33 million to build, with another $3.2 million needed for equipment and $1 million for furnishings. The new building would be integrated with UCO’s forensic science institute and would be located across the street from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

“We have to have better facilities,” said Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “With better facilities, comes better performance.”