ELIZABETHTON — The Health and Welfare Committee of the Carter County Commission on Monday night discussed possible alternatives to continued county funding for pauper burials.
The topic has rarely been an item of discussion in committee meetings because the costs were usually small and there are usually only two or three such burials a year. The Budget Committee has traditionally placed $2,000 a year in a “Pauper Burial” line item, and there has always been money in it at the end of the year.
That has changed this year. While the costs of such a burial have remained the same at $600 per burial, the number of burials is rising. With four months remaining in the fiscal year, Commission Chairman Thomas “Yogi” Bowers said the county has already paid for eight such burials and one bill is still outstanding.
The commission has already transferred $2,000 from an infrequently used “industry” line item to cover the overage, but that line item transfer has now been used up.
Committee member Ken Arney said there is concern that some families who are not indigent may be taking advantage of the charity.
“This may be getting out of hand,” Arney said.
Arney said there is a Washington County organization, Restore Life USA, that is willing to provide funeral services at no charge. Restore Life USA is a nonprofit organization that specializes in providing human tissue and spine specimens for medical research and education.
Other committee members said East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee are willing to accept bodies for scientific purposes.
Arney said he continues to receive letters of thanks and appreciation from families six years after his late son died as an organ and tissue donor.
In other matters, First Free Will Baptist Church will now serve as a place of refuge for Carter County Courthouse employees and customers in the event of an emergency, such as last year’s bomb threat. The church will also provide a place to go for the residents of Courtyard Apartments, a retirement center next door to the courthouse. The church will also provide assistance for the residents during an emergency.
The committee also met as the Building and Grounds Committee to discuss several matters concerning the old jail and justice center. Chairman LC. Tester said he has not yet heard the plans for repairing the building’s roof, which is leaking and has soaked some insulation. He said the final price will be higher than the first estimate because the insulation will have to be removed.
Tester said the food service from the Carter County School System has taken some of the items in the old jail kitchen. The committee will recommend the remaining appliances be offered to the city of Elizabethton, particularly the fire stations, and the rest should be sold in the next county auction.