HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A South Mississippi coroner says a $20 million public safety complex will help investigators better collect and process evidence in murder investigations. A new crime lab is one of several buildings going up on Highway 67 in Harrison County. The state recently decided to tweak the construction plans for the lab to include a morgue.
The work to build a state crime lab as been going on for months, but Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove says the push to move autopsies out of funeral homes and hospitals started more than a decade ago.
"You'll have like x-ray machines in there. You'll have dental machines in there. You can take dental x-rays,"said Hargrove. "You'll have a drying room to dry clothing that we need for evidence and to get evidence off of. It will have a storage room in it. It will have a walk in cooler."
Hargrove says the morgue cooler will make it less likely that the government will have to use refrigerated trucks to store bodies after a large scale disaster.
"The cooler that will be there will be a walk in cooler. It should be able to hold anywhere from 50 to 100 bodies. There are other coolers that are in place in our county where we can store bodies if we need to. If it goes beyond our capability, then we have to revert back to the [refrigerated] trucks like we did during Katrina."
Hargrove said the morgue will also be able to handle a biohazard situation.
Since Katrina, Highway Patrol Troop K has been working out of a trailer on Highway 49. Spokesperson Cpl. Johnny Poulos said, "We're very limited when it comes to space."
But troopers can look forward to moving into a brand new building in September.
"When an employee walks into a FEMA trailer, it brings back memories of Katrina," said Cpl. Poulos. "So we've looking forward to moving into the new building which will be better equip easily accessible by the public and be a huge morale boost for the troopers in Troop K."
A third building will be home to the State Bureau of Investigations and the State Bureau of Narcotics. Officials say that building and the Troop K headquarters are scheduled to be complete in September. The crime lab is supposed to be move in ready by February.