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Cass County to buy new vehicle for coroner body transfers

Safety and time were among the issues in looking for new equipment.

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Cass County Coroner Kriste Ross
Cass County website photo
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FARGO — Cass County's coroner department will be receiving a new body transport vehicle with better lifting mechanisms after a few lengthy discussions and a split vote by county commissioners.

The new vehicle from North Central Emergency Vehicles of Lester Prairie, Minn., was approved by the county commission Tuesday, March 22, will provide the features that coroner Kriste Ross said are needed to relieve pressure on her small staff to lift and transport bodies.

She said it will also help ambulance, police and fire departments, which are often called on to help when bodies are removed from homes and taken to the morgue, as they are also facing increasing calls.

Ross said about 20 to 25 bodies are moved each month, and those numbers are also growing along with the population.

For years, funeral homes have helped pick up bodies. They continue to do so if they are contacted by families, but are becoming more reluctant to do so, with one funeral home having a policy against assisting, Ross said.

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Thus, it's left to the coroner's office to take care of most bodies from the scene of a death as oftentimes other family members aren't around or haven't decided to which funeral home to transport their loved one.

Sometimes, autopsies are needed, and bodies must also be transported to the University of North Dakota Medical School in Grand Forks. The current vehicle doesn't have some of the needed safety features.

The new vehicle, at a cost of $157,073, will be equipped with lifting mechanisms and newly improved stretchers to help prevent injuries to coroner employees or other assisting personnel.

Commissioner Chad Peterson cast the lone vote against the vehicle purchase.

Peterson said at Monday's meeting, and also at previous meetings, that he believes they could find a much cheaper vehicle to serve the purpose.

He also said he could find some of the mechanical equipment and cots online. Ross said they have looked into other vendors and made calls but have come up empty.

One bid from a company called SIV in Pennsylvania was offering a used vehicle and mechanisms, but the county would save only $19,269.

Commission Chairman Rick Steen said he believed they had looked at several options and he preferred the new vehicle to provide more "certainty" on its ability to meet the coroner's needs. He was also concerned about possible injuries.

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Peterson also didn't like the early year budget adjustment needed in the coroner's department for the purchase.

Steen was joined by commissioners Duane Breitling, Mary Scherling and Jim Kapitan in approving the purchase.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY COMMISSION
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