Race for coroner focuses on morgue
Battle forWill County office highlights the need for new facility
The need for a larger morgue has never beenmore evident than in recent months when the Will County coroner’s office dealt with theCOVID-19 pandemic.
Interim Coroner Laurie Summers said she saw the need for a new morgue almost immediately after starting her role as a deputy coroner last year and has pledged to make that a priority if elected Nov. 3.
Summers, a Crete Democrat, and Jim Piacentini, a Republican from Steger, are vying for the office.
62, has 25 years experience as a registered nurse and completed various training since becoming deputy chief coroner last year.
She said that she often responds to calls as well and talks with family members who have lost a loved one.
67, draws on his more than 40 years experience as a part-time firefighter and a pharmacy technician as well as more than 35 years as an emergency medical technician. As a firefighter, he also has used his photography skills to aid in fire investigations.
Summers said the county’s existing morgue is too small and does not provide adequate work space. Shewould like to see a new morgue with additional cooler space for bodies and a separate break room and work area for deputy coroners.
Piacentini said he would need to study the issue to determine if there is a need for a new morgue.
TheWill County Board Executive Committee began discussions Thursday about potentially using vacant land at the county’s public
safety complex off Laraway Road to build a morgue. Summers suggested funding could come from the federal CARES Act, which provides dollars to reimburse local agencies for COVID-19 related expenses.
The existing morgue, built in 2002, provides enough cooler space to hold 12 to 14 bodies, Summers said. The coroner’s office acquired a temporary morgue, set up outside the main morgue, to deal with COVID-19 related deaths.
“We need to expand our morgue,” she said. “We need more storage room for coolers … we need to plan for the future and the next pandemic.”
Piacentini questioned the county and state’s reporting of COVID-19 related deaths and infection rates claiming the numbers are improperly inflated.
“There’s people out there blaming everything on COVID,” Piacentini said. “I just think it’s not right to blame it all on that.”
TheWill County Health Department has tabulated county deaths related to COVID-19. Piacentini said he would work to ensure that COVID-19 related deaths are reported accurately.
Summers said the coroner’s office has not taken jurisdiction and has left death determinations up to hospital doctors or nursing home officials.
Piacentini said his focus would to make the coroner more visible in thecommunity. Piacentini, who serves as a Crete Township trustee, said he would respond to death calls personally and would use his experience as a paramedic and forensic photographer to aid in death investigations.
“My one main goal is to make myself visible to the people,” Piacentini said.
He also said he intends to retain his role as a Crete Township trustee, a role that pays about $400 a month, if elected coroner.
Both Piacentini and Summers said they would like to add deputy coroners to cover the eastern portion of Will County. Both said that at times it can take deputy coroners an hour or more to respond to calls in that portion of the county.
Summers said she would like to hire twomore deputy coroners to allow for three deputy coroners per shift. Summers also suggested having a coroner’s van in that section of the county to better respond to calls.
Longtime Coroner Patrick O’Neil, a Democrat, announced in December he would not seek an eighth term and backed Summers, who in 2019 stepped down from the county board to become chief deputy coroner. She has been serving as interim coroner since O’Neil’s recent retirement.