Kansas City, Kan. — A new privately owned morgue that can hold 100 bodies is scheduled to open next month, and coroners in the Kansas City area say it will likely save taxpayers money while filling a vital need.
Jason Hodgdon of Shawnee said he spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to renovate an old ambulance building in Kansas City, Kan., for the morgue.
Coroners in Wyandotte and Johnson counties have already made plans to use the morgue. The two counties, as well as many others in the area, do not have morgues, which often are expensive to operate.
Wyandotte County will conduct all autopsies at the First Call Morgue. Johnson County officials said they will use it for autopsies that involve decomposing bodies with odor problems.
The facility’s autopsy room has tables, sinks, floor drains and an X-ray machine. Racks in the 600-square-foot cooler room can store 100 bodies at 40 degrees.
Wyandotte County Coroner Alan Hancock said the morgue will save the county money because bodies often are sent to Topeka for autopsies. If the bodies were involved in homicides, they require two police officers as escorts.
And he said he’ll send bodies that don’t need autopsies to First Call Morgue instead of immediately sending them to funeral homes.
The morgue already has started storing some decomposing bodies for funeral homes, which often don’t have coolers and want to avoid odor problems.
“I can put them in a cooler here and keep them until the family decides on a funeral home,” Hancock said.
Johnson County does routine autopsies at Kansas University Medical Center, but also has to send decomposing bodies to Topeka, said the county’s Coroner Michael Handler.
“They’re often very important cases that involve foul play,” Handler said, but they are not allowed at the medical center.
The new morgue’s negative air flow system filters odor and contaminants, Hodgdon said.