Dakota County commissioners Tuesday gave final approval to a merger of its morgue and medical examiner's office with Hennepin County's.
Hennepin will provide medical examiner services to Dakota County for four years starting Jan. 1. Scott County has also decided to merge its medical examiner's office with Hennepin's.
For the service, Dakota will pay a fee to Hennepin not to exceed about $1 million a year. And that fee will increase by 2 percent in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hennepin has agreed to pass back to Dakota County autopsy fees paid by other counties that follow Dakota to the Hennepin service. About a dozen other counties now use the Dakota medical examiner facilities.
Hennepin's downtown Minneapolis morgue will be remodeled to handle the expanded staff and caseload. Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County's chief medical examiner, will become the medical examiner for Dakota and Scott counties.
Dr. Lindsey Thomas, Dakota County's medical examiner since 1999, will work as assistant medical examiner.
The merger was prompted by Dakota County's decision to leave its cramped facility in Hastings. Dakota is expecting improved facilities, better work space and storage and improved medical technology.
Asked if the medical examiner's office will be moved by the construction of the new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Baker said he has not been approached by the Vikings and his office has no plans to move. "If forced to move it would not be to a location that would be less convenient for you," he told Dakota County officials.