ANDERSON — Madison County Coroner Dr. Troy Abbott is requesting $1.4 million to construct a morgue and autopsy room.

The Madison County Council took no action Tuesday on the request that Abbott is seeking from the county’s share of the CARES Act COVID-19 fund.

Abbott requested $1 million to construct a morgue to hold between 12 and 18 bodies and $337,300 to equip a room to conduct autopsies.

He said the request is being made from the funding that has not been appropriated by county officials.

Abbott said with the warmer weather it’s important to store bodies in a cold area to prevent decomposing.

Thus far this year the Coroner’s Office has handled 125 cases, he said.

Council President Ben Gale said building projects have to start with approval by the county commissioners before a funding source is considered.

Abbott said the two Anderson hospitals have space to hold four bodies and it could mean shipping bodies to other counties. He said any case involving the Coroner’s Office has to be in a secure facility.

If the county had a room equipped for autopsies, he said, a forensic pathologist would have to come to Madison County.

Councilman Jerry Alexander asked how many times this year there were more than four coroner cases in the county.

That has happened twice since January, Abbott replied.

“It would cost less money to rent space in another county than spending $1.4 million,” Alexander said. “In a typical day you don’t have a problem.

“To spend $1.4 million for three or four times a year is a matter of convenience rather than a necessity,” he said.

There have been discussions about constructing a morgue as part of any new jail facility in the county.

Abbott’s request for an additional appropriation of $100,000 was approved to pay for autopsies for the remainder of the year. He said the $80,000 appropriated for 2021 is down to approximately $5,000.

The council did approve a request from Sheriff Scott Mellinger for $75,930 from the CARES Act funding for coronavirus-related expenses at the jail.

“I’m concerned about an outbreak in the fall,” the sheriff said.

Mellinger said the department has been dealing with coronavirus-related cases for the past five weeks.

The council approved $38,000 in funding to purchase 200 mattresses that can be sanitized against infectious diseases and 200 regular mattresses.

Mellinger received approval to purchase two ultraviolet lights that can mitigate diseases, protective shields for jail officers, two laptop computers, new sheets, blankets and towels and a restraint system.

The council tabled a request for two security equipment at the Madison County Government Center at a cost of $59,390 to include a new walk-through metal detector and X-ray machine that can detect infectious diseases.

Auditor Rick Gardner said the county still has $664,000 from the original $4.2 million approved by the state for COVID-19 related expenses.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.