Late last week, it was announced that the Medical Examiner’s office here in Northwest Georgia would be closed due to budget cuts ordered by Governor Sonny Perdue. AM 1180 Chattooga County Radio News spoke with Representative Barbara Massey Reece about the closure and the cuts which brought it about. Reese clarified that the crime lab itself will not be closed but that the current plan calls for autopsy services to be moved to Atlanta. Area coroners are concerned about the autopsy services being moved due to the increased cost of transportation of bodies as well as a possible backlog causing delays in the issuance of death certificates. This delay could prevent a family from receiving closure concerning the loss of a loved one. The crime lab serves a 15 county area here in the Northwest Georgia area. Reese pointed out that this closure should not affect support services provided by the lab. There are a variety of services which will continue to be provided to local law enforcement.
Overall, the Northwest Georgia Crime Lab was fairly lucky because two crime labs were completely closed down – one in Moultrie and one in Columbus. The current $1.6 billion budget shortfall caused the governor to call for all agencies to perform a 6% cut in expenditures, and that cut translated into a reduction of approximately $4.1 million for the GBI.
Reese expressed concern that the cuts could create a hardship in the area of public safety, and she mentioned that so far, the governor has not consulted the legislature at all concerning the financial cuts which have taken place. She said that she would much prefer that Gov. Perdue call a special session and get the appropriations committees working on developing plans to best deal with Georgia’s current financial woes.