New $18.65M Medical Examiner’s Facility Planned for Avalon Industrial Site

Posted on December 11, 2023 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Commissioners during their December 11 meeting discussed a four-county interlocal agreement for the design and construction of a new District One Medical Examiner’s facility on county-owned property located on Commerce Road in an industrial area off Avalon Boulevard.

Initially the project was presented as a replacement for the existing facility, which is located at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. However, it was decided that the current facility will be maintained as a backup location.

The regional medical examiner’s office serves Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton Counties and is facilitated by a board of directors (DOMES), which will oversee the project and plans to utilize multiple funding sources, including up to a $15 million loan with terms of no longer than 20 years at an interest rate no greater than 6%.

Previously the four counties came to an initial cost-sharing agreement for DOMES’ annual operating expenses, following years of debate over project details and downsizing from the original $25-million plan to a less expensive 21,865-square-foot building.

Additionally, each county will fund 28.33% of project development, although Walton County will only provide a 15% contribution due to a lesser proportion served.

Escambia Commissioners on Dec. 7 unanimously approved the second interlocal agreement. 

“I am happy that we finally got a project that the Escambia County Commission can get behind,” said Santa Rosa County Assistant County Administrator Brad Baker, who was appointed to represent Santa Rosa on the DOMES board. “Hopefully our commissioners will approve the project on (December 13) …DOMES can then move forward with final design package and bidding for the project.”

As part of its contributions, Santa Rosa County will convey to DOMES around 5 of 9 acres acquired in January 2023 for $745,852 from Fort Storage Delaware Holdings, LLC, which is managed by Brian Finger of Gulf Breeze.

“It is great to see the approval of the funding agreement by three of the four counties, and we look forward to an approval by Santa Rosa County,” said Dr. Deanna Oleske, District 1 Chief Medical Examiner. “An up-to-date, stand-alone medical examiner facility is critical to the area to support the criminal justice system, ensure complete, timely, and accurate death investigations, and provide credible, objective, truthful and scientifically sound determinations of cause and manner of death to families.”