Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton is currently looking for a new place to set up shop since the new government center on University Parkway does not include space for his department.
The issue is currently being considered by County Council’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee, which includes Councilmembers Sandy Haskell, LaWana McKenzie and Chuck Smith.
McKenzie said the committee’s search for a new location is only preliminary at this point, but an early examination shows it may cost between $250,000 to $500,000 to find a suitable spot that could be renovated.
“It’s simply a rough estimate at this point,” McKenzie said, noting budget constraints have relegated the search to buildings already owned by the County.
A number of spots are being studied, including the York Street annex, which also houses EMS and the County’s Building and Grounds offices, and the Graniteville Community Services Building, which serves as the County’s e-waste center.
Currently, the coroner’s staff and office space are split into three different areas.
The office’s administrative responsibilities are located in the Aiken County Courthouse, while evidence is stored at the County’s Emergency Services Headquarters, located on York Street.
Additionally, Aiken Regional Medical Centers offers space to essentially serve as the County’s morgue.
Carlton said centralizing staff and space would alleviate time restraints and make his department run more efficiently.
“Ideally, we would like to be under one roof. It would certainly make more sense,” Carlton said. “It would prevent a lot of driving and additional time and effort on my investigators and myself in terms of trying to manage a case.”
Carlton and his staff are not included in the new facility due to concerns over privacy and security, according to Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian.
“It needs to be in a public place where people can come to, but it also deals with secure, specialized services,” Killian said.
He pointed to the need to have refrigeration units, storage availability for evidence and the right space for staff to inform those impacted by incidents in the county.
“Most of the time, they have to go out in the field when an event occurs and notify next of kin,” Killian explained. “People then have to come by and pick up death certificates, personal effects and items like that.”
The coroner’s office is called for violent, sudden and unattended deaths, including all accidents, homicides and suicides.
Killian noted that, due to the sensitivity of such investigations, the County wants to find the perfect fit as far as office space.
A time frame is not in place at the moment, but he added the County would like to pinpoint a spot “sooner rather than later.”
“It would benefit us all to find a logical place for the office and to centralize all his functions into one spot.”
• Michael Ulmer covers the county government beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since March 2013. He is a native of North Augusta and majored in political science at the University of South Carolina.