The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences will no longer transport bodies to and from their Montgomery laboratory and they will also no longer send investigators to investigate deaths. The change will go into effect January 19.
Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry Jr. addressed the Russell County Commission, expressing concerns about the change.
“How are we going to transport these bodies,” Sumbry asked the seven commissioners.
Sumbry said he only has an estimated $3,000 that is not already budgeted and transporting a body to and from Montgomery will cost approximately $300 each way.
Sumbry, who works full-time and has two part-time assistants, said the use of his coroner’s vehicle and the time away from the county will greatly affect the service his office is able to provide county residents.
“We need an additional driver/deputy and an additional vehicle,” Sumbry said. “It’s important that we be able to do things in a timely manner. Let’s be fair to the families that we serve.”
Commissioner Gentry Lee said the law doesn’t say whose responsibility it is to transport bodies and with the tight budget, he told Sumbry his budget would have to be reduced not increased.
“It’s not going to be easy for any of us,” Lee said.
In fact, on Wednesday the commission asked each department head to cut its budget by 12 percent within the next 10 working days, to address the statewide budget cut.
Commission Chairman Mervin Dudley said the commission was aware of the change and the group needed to address the issue.
“Obviously something has got to be done,” Dudley said.
Lee suggested Sumbry utilize his two deputies to cover shifts when he is out of the county transporting bodies. However, Sumbry stressed his two part-time employees have full-time jobs and may not be available during the regular workday to cover for him if he is out of town.
Commissioner Cattie Epps said commissioners need to address the matter soon, because voters would look to them for a solution.
“When a family is in distress, they don’t look at who is responsible. The voter is going to look at us and say we didn’t do our job,” Epps said.