Counties Asked to Support Smaller Medical Examiner Facility

Posted on March 21, 2023 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Commissioners during their March 20 committee meeting were presented information on a scaled-down version of a proposed new District One Medical Examiner’s facility, and the board voiced 4-1 support for the revision with District 3 Commissioner James Calkins in opposition.

“I think everybody here wants a good facility at a good cost,” Calkins said. “What was asked before was a Taj Majal.”

Okaloosa County Assistant Administrator Craig Coffey, current president of the District One Medical Examiner’s Office Board of Directors (DOMES), made Monday’s presentation, stating that at one time the new building project was planned to be 29,000 square feet, resulting in a $24 million price tag.

But after DOMES didn’t receive enough support for that initial plan, they dropped the square footage, which resulted in a $5-6 million decrease in cost.

Now, instead of being asked for $3 million upfront, each of the four counties located in District One are being asked to chip in $750,000.

The State of Florida has already kicked in $500,000. Coffey said another $1.5 million is possible from the state, leaving $14-16 million to be financed if all four counties can agree.

According to Coffey, Walton County Commissioners recently agreed to the downscaled project and Okaloosa Commissioners will consider it soon.

But getting all four counties to agree is wherein the problems arise.

District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker said that on March 17 he received word that Escambia County was not in agreement with pursuing a new facility.

Escambia County has been looking into expanding the current facility, which is located on Sacred Heart Hospital’s campus in Pensacola. That board is scheduled to revisit the matter during their March 23 meeting.

“We need all counties on board,” Calkins said. “If Escambia County is going to improve it, why don’t we use that money for infrastructure…we’ve got to be careful when it comes to spending massive amounts of money.”

“I’m willing to move the ball forward even if it isn’t great,” said Parker.