Platte County Commissioners plan to change medical examiner services

Platte County’s concerns over the rising costs of medical examiner services may soon see some relief

Major Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office updated the commission this week on the department’s efforts to find an alternative to the Jackson County Medical Examiner, which has handled medical examiner services for Platte County — and many other jurisdictions — for years. Over the last couple of years fees have skyrocketed due to construction of a new facility in Jackson County.

Holland said commissioners should expect to see a contract for services with Frontier Forensics Midwest of Kansas City, Kan. on the Tuesday, Dec. 3 regular agenda. The county then must give Jackson County 30 days notice to terminate the existing agreement.

The fee for these services from the Jackson County Medical Examiner more than doubled this year. In June, commissioners approved a $259,038 agreement for services, but said they would actively search for alternatives. In 2017, Platte County paid Jackson County $125,835 and in 2016 services cost $92,293.

Most area governments utilize the services of the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office because staffing, licensing and accreditation of medical examiner offices are cost-prohibitive for most entities. Clay County formerly utilized the same services but balked at the increased cost this year and selected Frontier Forensics Midwest instead.

Also at the meeting, Holland told commissioners about the fate of historic documents recently found by the county clerk. Some of the sheriff’s office documents found dated to the Civil War era and Holland contacted Park University history professor Dr. Timothy Westcott for advice on what to do with the documents. As head of the university’s historical archives, Westcott said Park University could preserve the documents in its archives, which are available to the public.

Westcott may also be able to help the county deal with a long-standing concern about what to do with records currently stored under the detention center in what is called the “futures” area. The county is not legally required to retain record books stored there, but as they contain historical information has been searching for a better place to keep them. Discussions are under way to potentially relocate some of these records to Park University’s archive, where they would be better maintained and available to the public.

Public works director Bob Heim also told commissioners his department is working on a review of speed limit and stop sign ordinances on roads in rural Platte County. Some roads have been paved and could support increased speed limits, while some gravel roads could be better served by a reduction of speed. Staff is considering reducing speed limits on gravel roads from 45 miles per hour to 35 mph.

Jones-Meyer Road by Parkville, which is paved, is plagued by speeders and Heim said the county may install stop signs along its length to help control speeds.