Six funeral homes sign on to transport remains

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Attorney Daniel Manning announced Monday that six funeral homes have signed on with Essex County to transport human remains.

Representatives of these funeral homes apparently have agreed to shuttle the deceased from place to place after the county offered to pay the businesses more for providing the service.

Manning did not name these funeral homes, and when asked who they were, he did not respond by deadline.

Manning’s announcement came after the county’s new coroner regulations, slated to go into effect Sept. 1, were put on hold. Funeral homes around the region declined or deferred signing the original version of the county’s contract, whether because of insurance requirements — the contract asked funeral homes to add the county to its insurance policies — or as a result of disagreements over the proposed per-case pay.

The county initially offered to pay funeral homes $400 per case to remove remains, with an additional option for an exigent stipend of $1,000 if approved by the county in advance, according to documents obtained by the Enterprise. In the latest contract terms, the county is offering $500 per case.

It’s unclear whether these six funeral homes verbally agreed to the terms or have formally signed contracts. It’s also unclear what else may have changed between the original contract terms and the updated terms. Manning did not respond to questions seeking clarity on these questions by deadline.

Before the county raised that per-case pay, only one funeral home, the Heald Funeral Home in Elizabethtown, had signed a contract with the county to provide transport.

The county’s coroner law effectively shifted the responsibility of transporting human remains from coroners to funeral homes, and it also held standards for coroners.

Earlier this month, the county Board of Supervisors passed a resolution moving the effective date indefinitely. At the board’s Ways and Means committee meeting Oct. 28, Lewis town Supervisor Jim Monty said he hoped the new regulations could be set by December for a Jan. 1, 2020, effective date.

Supers discuss regs

Moriah town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said that requiring funeral homes to provide transport services was putting them “in a tough spot.” He asked if, in certain circumstances when a funeral home director is not immediately available, transportation responsibilities could revert to coroners.

“There are too many personalities involved in this,” Scozzafava added, without elaborating on whom he was referring to. “Let’s call a spade a spade.”

For coroners to provide transport under the new regulations, “there has to be an extreme situation,” Manning said, noting that those regulations could be changed.

Willsboro town Supervisor and county Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland said the county would assume liability if something happens and one of the coroners isn’t properly insured or equipped.

County lawmakers have already analyzed what would be better — investing in equipment for coroners or contracting with funeral homes to do transport — and determined the latter would be “more effective,” Gillilland said.

Minerva town Supervisor Stephen McNally said it’s time to move forward.

“Let’s go with the law for six months and see if we have a problem,” he said.


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