Storage shortage: Summit County finds new home for body cooler |

Storage shortage: Summit County finds new home for body cooler

SUMMIT COUNTY – It’s one of those things most people take for granted: A car accident results in a fatality, or someone dies suddenly alone in their apartment. The fire department, paramedics and police respond, but it’s too late. Somebody, though, has to take the body away.

That responsibility falls to the county coroner. Sometimes, the coroner immediately takes the body to Jefferson County, where it is stored until a medical examiner conducts an autopsy.

Recently, however, County Coroner Joanne Richardson learned the county does have a cooler to store bodies, and, unfortunately, she’s had to deal with enough deaths to need it. About half of the 26 bodies Richardson has handled since taking office in January have needed to be put in storage locally.

The cooler is located in Breckenridge. Bodies are kept in a building on County Road 450 along with large evidence stored by the Sheriff’s Office. But Richardson’s office is in Frisco – not the most convenient location.

“It’s hard to get to in there, and sometimes there’s equipment on top of the cooler,” Richardson said. “I know (the sheriff’s office) would like to have it out of there, and I would, too.”

Another issue is professional. In the past, coroners have employed the services of morticians and funeral homes in Summit County and in Idaho Springs. Richardson said one of her goals as coroner is to separate the functions of the county office and private business.

There are cost considerations, too. It costs $25 for Richardson to store a body in Jefferson County.

“I think it’s just easier and more professional if we do this ourselves,” she said.

So, Richardson began looking for a new place to put the cooler. Finding a place to put it wasn’t easy because storage space in Summit County is in short supply, not to mention the difficulty in convincing other county employees to share their storage space with the deceased.

“It’s somewhat of a problem,” County Manager Ron Holliday said, referring to the storage shortage. “Decent file storage is really hurting us. There’s a lot of competition for existing space, and most people don’t consider this to be a desirable neighbor.”

Holliday said he was able to find space, though. The cooler is scheduled to be moved to the County Commons area, near the Summit Stage and Road and Bridge facilities.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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