BY GENA HUFF, Editor
At the Pickens County Commissioner’s Administrative meeting June 7, amidst the talk of gravel, rip rap, road graders, and herbicide, County Coroner Chad Harless brought in something different when he came to notify the Commissioners the bills from the Coroner’s department were going to be higher.
“The Coroner’s office has been absolutely crazy this year,” said Harless. “I’ve had more in-depth investigation autopsies than I do in a three-year time period.”
“The price of transport has gone way up,” Harless added. “The people that do my contract hauling of bodies have sky-rocketed on their price. I’m trying to find some other people to do it. So, if you see some bills that one time, it’s really low, and then it’s nearly double, it depends on if it’s day, night, weekend, where they are coming to, and where they are going from.”
Harless does most of the transporting when he can, but if he is unable or does not have a deputy who can do it when he may be out of town, another service is necessary.
Another increase in billing is the cremation for unclaimed bodies. “I’ve already had two bodies that are unclaimed,” said Harless. “Usually I only get one every three years, and I’ve already had two this year. So, we have to pay for that, the disposition (of the body).”
“I try to find the families,” said Harless. “So, what I’ve been doing is cremating and they (the ashes) come out and stay at the house for two years. If they are unclaimed at the end (of two years), then I sprinkle ashes.”
“How many dead people do you have at your house?” Cheryl Bowles, County Administrator asked.
“I got three right now,” Harless answered.
“That’s the crematory bills I was looking at the other day,” said Commissioner Drew Elmore. “I didn’t know what that was.”
According to Harless, the price on cremation runs between $1300 and $1500 on average. The Coroner has prerogative over disposition of the bodies that are unclaimed in the county. Most counties usually use cremation since county workers would have to dig and close the grave for burial, and if a family member did come forward to claim the body at a later date, the county would have to exhume the body. Caskets weren’t mentioned, but that could also factor in to elevated costs.
“As far as body hauls,” said Harless, “one of these days we’re going to have to break down and buy a cooler. There is no morgue in the county. Funeral homes do not have morgues. They don’t have any place to hold a body.”
See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.