DARKE COUNTY — County commissioners passed measures to fund forensic testing, ditch maintenance, children’s services, and continuing improvements to the Darke County Airport Monday.
Funds in the amount of $10,000 was transferred to the office of the Darke County coroner for forensic testing on crime and accident victims – largely, according to both commissioners and the coroner’s office, as a result of the continuing opioid crisis.
“It’s a moving target,” County Commissioner Mike Rhoades said of the funds required by the coroner’s office each year. “We never know how much they’re going to need. In this particular case, they’ve used more than we appropriated for them at the beginning of the year.”
Darke County Chief Medicolegal Death Investigator Joe Van Vickle expressed similar sentiments.
“I can’t tell you what tonight or tomorrow will bring,” Van Vickle said. “But we’ve almost exhausted our funds for the year, and a big part of that is because of drug-related incidents.”
Van Vickle stressed the importance of forensic testing in being able to determine the circumstances under which a death has occurred.
“In order to be able to answer the questions of the family, as well as the community,” Van Vickle said, “and meet the expectations people have as far as forensic investigation. Meeting those expectations takes a lot of training, and a lot of money.”
Commissioners also discussed the expense involved in protecting those who handle victims’ bodies from exposure to hazardous substances which may be present, such as fentanyl and other drugs which can be dangerous if they come in contact with the skin.
“It’s one of the hidden costs of the drug epidemic,” County Commissioner Mike Stegall said.
Commissioners also transferred over $11,000 in funds to cover ditch maintenance; $64,872 to fund county Children’s Services for the month; $17,714 for construction work related to the county’s Community Housing Improvement Project grant; and $35,406 as an advance against funds from the county’s FAA grant for improvements to the county airport. The grant money will go toward covering the cost of engaging an engineering firm consulting on improvements to the airport’s runway.