LUBBOCK, Texas — Voters will get to decide whether a new medical examiner’s office gets built in Lubbock County in the upcoming November 7 election. A bond issue to pay for the new facility will be on the ballot and if it’s approved, local taxpayers would pay $35.3 million for the project.
The total price of the project is around $45 million but federal funding will cover $10 million of the cost. Currently, Lubbock County’s autopsies are done in Tarrant County, and Parrish believes it would ultimately save money to have the autopsies done locally in Lubbock County.
“We’ve got rental payments; we’ve got outsourcing payments. We’re going to take all of that money that we’re spending right now and roll that into the bond and into the operations of this facility, causing a very minimal impact on your Lubbock County tax bill,” Parrish said.
Sarah Parsons, who is the office manager at South Plains Forensic Pathology and whose husband is a forensic pathologist there, also believes Lubbock County needs a new medical examiner’s office. However, she thinks the proposed one is too expensive for taxpayers and too large for the population it would serve.
“Spending 34 million dollars on an office when, quite frankly, three-quarters of it will never be used is wasteful,” Parsons said.
The new facility would have a cooler that would hold more than 200 bodies and eight autopsy stations, which Parsons said is too many. For comparison, Parsons said South Plains Forensic Pathology uses two autopsy stations for the 60 West Texas counties they serve.
Parsons believes Lubbock County needs a medical examiner’s office that better fits the size of the population.
“We don’t have seven million people living in Lubbock County and I sincerely doubt seven million people are going to move to Lubbock County in the next 10 years,” Parsons said.
Parsons also believes the county should hire a forensic pathologist before voting on and potentially building the new facility. The county has been without one for more than four years.
However, Parrish said the new facility is what would bring a forensic pathologist in.
“We do need a first-class facility to attract a first-class forensic pathologist,” Parrish said.
Parrish also believes the big space and plethora of resources is what a growing Lubbock County needs.
“We’ve got this facility to a place where we know that’s going to meet Lubbock County needs not just today but for 30 years in the future,” Parrish said. I’m very excited about this plan. I think it’s very doable. It’s very feasible. It’s what Lubbock County needs.”
Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide when early voting begins on Monday, Oct. 23. If it is approved, the building will take two years to build and until then, the county will continue to use outsourcing services for autopsies.