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Latest pathology center cost analysis eases some concerns, stokes others

Bannock County Commissioners discuss the East Idaho Forensic Pathology Center. | Courtesy YouTube
POCATELLO — Bannock County Commissioner John Crowder’s concerns regarding the East Idaho Forensic Pathology Center were not alleviated by Tuesday morning’s meeting.
Consultant Dotti Owens presented the latest cost projections for the facility during the Bannock County Commission meeting. This presentation was necessitated by a Thursday meeting that left Crowder questioning the cost-effectiveness of the facility.
“We’re all looking to do our best for the county, I believe, and there’s just a difference of opinion here … as to what is the best way to use these funds,” Crowder said of himself and the other two commissioners — Jeff Hough and Ernie Moser.
RELATED | Bannock County advances pathology lab planning despite opposition
During her presentation, Owens informed the commissioners that the forensic pathologist position will require a starting salary of $285,000 annually. With a nationwide shortage of licensed pathologists, any less, she said, would not make the position attractive enough to be filled.
A lab technician — originally thought to be a full-time position — will only require part-time employment for the immediate future. And though a transcriptionist will not be required after all, the lab will need an administrator, according to Owens’ presentation.
Though the salary for the three positions is projected to be less than the $480,000 or so Crowder suggested at last week’s meeting, the combination of salary and benefits for the three is close to $500,000. That, Crowder said, is on top of what is now expected to be a construction cost closer to $9 million than the originally projected $2 million.
Like Hough, coroner Torey Danner, and other county officials, Crowder understands the benefit of adding the state’s second forensic pathology lab. A benefit which, he said, reaches well outside of Bannock County perimeters.
In fact, according to Bannock County spokeswoman Emma Iannacone, Clark, Fremont, Jefferson, Madison, Teton, Bonneville, Bingham, Power, Caribou, Oneida, Franklin, Bear Lake, Butte, Minidoka, Cassia and Blaine counties will all be served by the new lab.
That, Crowder asserts, means Bannock County should not be shouldering the financial burden of the facility alone.
“Why should Bannock County be paying for all of this?” he asked speaking with “If this is such a great thing for the entire region, you would think we would have every county that’s supposedly going to be involved with this thing contributing toward the cost of building the facility.”
It is Crowder’s belief that sharing the cost burden with surrounding counties is something the commission should have already explored.
While it has not, Danner told that one of the positives he took from Tuesday’s meeting was the county’s willingness to explore financial options other than taxes.
“I was happy to see that they are looking for some different funding sources,” he said. “That makes me a little more comfortable moving forward.”
During her presentation, Owens spoke about grants the county could apply for and use in construction. She also said she has been in contact with a forensic odontologist who is willing to work with the county free of charge.
Hough added that the county could also go back to the state, which has already provided $900,000 for the project, with requests for additional funds.
Unlike Crowder, Hough voted in favor of advancing the construction of the lab last week, and he is willing to explore options to get the lab running as cost-effectively as possible.
“My goal is to operate this like any business and try to make it pay for itself,” he told
One financing option Hough is not ready to explore, but was brought up by Crowder, is asking Idaho State University — a partner in the endeavor — for assistance. The University, Hough said, is already operating on a “tight enough” and “stretched” budget as it is.
Danner likened the construction of the lab to putting an elevator in his house. It would be greatly beneficial, he said, but it is far from cost-effective.
“I think it is going to be great for the area,” he said. “I think it is definitely a need — only having one place to go in the entire state has always been a concern, it’s an ongoing concern.”
The post Latest pathology center cost analysis eases some concerns, stokes others appeared first on East Idaho News.

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