Addendum to Prowers County Commissioner Meeting of Feb.20, 2024

NOTE:  Due to a printing deadline for the February 21, 2024 edition of The Prowers Journal, we were not able to include this in our report of that date’s meeting:


During the afternoon meeting of February 21, 2024.  Thomas Dunagan, Prowers County Coroner, had several issues to discuss with the Board.  He gave an update on the ongoing cooler project for decomposed bodies.  Dunagan said he had found a location to install the cooler (which the coroner’s office already has) and was asked by the Board if he had estimates of what it was going to cost to install it, including electrical connections, security for the site, etc.  Installation of the cooler involves encasing it in an insulated box and of concern was the total cost of the project.  The Board had allocated $6,000 in the coroner’s budget for the project but was told the actual cost could exceed that.  When asked by Commissioner Ron Cook if the remainder of the coroner’s budget could cover the additional costs, Dunagan said they were looking at applying for grants to offset the cost.  The Board decided to postpone a decision on the installation until such time that such grants have been approved or the coroner’s office could find other funding to use.  The discussion then moved to the potential procurement of a van for the coroner to use to transport decomposed bodies to Colorado Springs for autopsies.  The office currently contracts this out and previous discussions with the coroner about this this have focused on whether the county could provide the service at a lower cost by owning a vehicle versus what is currently being spent contracting it out.  Dunagan said that Baca County had agreed to a zero cost lease to Prowers County for an older, unused van they had.  The vehicle in question has not been driven in years and needs an unknown number of repairs before it could be driven.  Since Dunagan was not able to provide an estimate for the costs for these as-yet unknown improvements, the Board was not willing to approve the finalization of such a lease.  The other area of concern to the Board would be insuring this vehicle, as it is titled in Baca County’s name and as such, may not be able to be insured by the insurance company Prowers County uses.  The Prowers Administrator will look into this matter, so further discussion concerning the van will have to be heard at a future meeting.  Mr. Dunagan also wanted to discuss his previous requests that his job position be upgraded to full-time pay instead of the current part-time designation.  Mark Westhoff, County Administrator, said that all county departments heads were specifically instructed to not include any salary increases in their request for this year’s budget.  The coroner’s budget request included such a salary increase but was reduced to correctly reflect the coroner’s current salary after Dunagan was notified, per Westhoff.   On December 27th, County departments were notified of special meeting to be held at 9:00 a.m. on December 28th which was to include a public hearing for the 2024 Prowers County Budget before it was finalized.  During that hearing, department heads had the opportunity to attend and dispute their respective budgets before they were finalized by a vote of the Commissioners.  The preliminary budget for the coroner’s office was $109,312; Commissioners approved the final budget for that department for $128,662, as the coroner did not attend the meeting to discuss a dispute concerning his salary and part-time status.

By Barbara Crimond

Filed Under: CountyFeaturedHealth


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