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Lowndes Coroner Greg Merchant Has Deceased Body With No Family To Provide A Burial

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors met last Thursday for their next to last meeting of 2011 inside the boardroom at The Lowndes County Courthouse.
Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant came before the board to disclose that he had in his possession the body of a 72 year old female. He said he’d had her for about 60 days. Merchant said he talked to the only family member that she had and that the gentleman was disabled and unable to provide any type of burial for his mother. Merchant went on to tell the board that the deceased nor her son owned any property in Lowndes County, according to the Lowndes County tax assessors office. He said he was to the point where he needed to make a move on burying her. He asked the board for permission to contract with a local funeral home to provide a cremation to take care of the situation before we (the county) get any deeper in it.
Board President Harry Sanders asked Merchant if the deceased had any Social Security benefits. Merchant said she did not. Merchant said Social Security benefits only provide if there is an existing spouse or dependent, which the deceased had neither.
The board discussed the situation and decided the maximum amount the county could provide in burial assistance would be $500. Sanders asked if cremation was part of of a proper burial. Merchant explained that final disposition of a deceased person would include burial or cremation. Sanders asked if there were a local funeral home that would bury the body for $500. Merchant said there was.
Sanders then made a motion to fund a paupers burial not to exceed $500. After a second, District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks wanted to discuss whether an invoice was gonna be provided by the burying funeral home. The check, it was pointed out, needed to be made to the funeral home. The supes would get the invoice and come back later and put it on the docket.
Merchant then asked the board to consider some type of policy on the specifics of how and who the county would provide assistance too in cases such as this. Merchant says he gets requests on a monthly, even weekly, basis on assistance from the county from many families who lose loved ones. Sanders said the county policy should be what the definition of a “pauper” is. And if the deceased has any assets…even an automobile or tv…the county cannot provide assistance. Sanders said they are not “paupers” if they own anything at all.
Brooks chimed in that the board should wait and look at the individual situation…that to make a carte-blanche statement such as Sanders’ made could put Merchant in a bad situation because he had a body down there for 6 months.
Sanders said that the county doesn’t want to get into the funeral business. Regardless, Merchant wants a specific policy to point too when people come to him and he can show them the policy in black and white, without having to speak in generalarities. Something in concrete that has been voted on by the board, and not just a determination of a “pauper” status.
Sanders asked Merchant to work on a specific policy and bring it to the board for consideration of adoption. Merchant said he would and would review policies already in place in surrounding counties involving similar situations.
The board voted unanimously to provide the pauper burial for the deceased.

County Road Manager Ronnie Burns came before the board asking permission to have 5 sheds built at each satellite barn (each supervisor district). Burns said the sheds would each measure 30 foot by 80 foot and would house heavy equipment and trucks for the county. It would keep county equipment out of the weather, directly. Burns went on to say that during the winter, it sometimes takes 30 minutes to de-ice windshields on trucks and other equipment. Burns said the total amount for constructing all of the sheds would be $32,000. That amount would only be for the material. He said county forces (already employed by Lowndes County) would construct the sheds.
Leroy Brooks made a motion to amend Burns’ budget by $32,000. The vote was unanimous in favor of.

County Administrator Ralph Billingsley brought forth a GAP insurance renewal for county employees. Brooks asked if the plan would cost employees any more. Billingsley said it would not. The board adopted the plan.
Billingsley also brought up the law library being moved to the Columbus/ Lowndes public library. Billingsley said some items needed to remain at the courthouse and the supes approved the request.

The supervisors will meet again on Thursday, December 29th at 9 a.m. for their final meeting of 2011.


1 comment

  1. hopefully , the can get a ‘footstone’ for the grave, w/ the name and date of death on it. something cheap and not fancy, Columbus Marble Works has a scrap pile that they could dip into for a piece of a tombstone. most cemetaries have a plot map, so you can record where you placed the body for future reference, if needed.

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