MINNETONKA — The new Hennepin County Medical Examiner building is moving forward as the Minnetonka City Council passed a resolution approving the proposed building project at its Oct. 7 meeting.
“I am very much in favor of the new site and the layout and the landscaping and everything involved with it and I hope people who are watching will understand what a huge benefit this facility will provide not only for Hennepin County but two additional counties,” Council member Tim Bergstedt said.
The original plans for the building called for the building to be constructed on the east side of the property at 14300 County Road 62, but before the project went to the City Council on Sept. 16 plans were changed to build the building on the west side of the property. The move reduces the impact of the building on the site, according to City Planner Loren Gordon in the Oct. 7 meeting.
The new building, which will share a site with the Hennepin County Home School, will have more space and better equipment including rooms dedicated to grieving families. The building will be surrounded by vegetation and fencing to keep unwanted visitors out and is far away from residences. Hennepin County Medical Examiner staff determine the causes of death for unexpected fatalities in Scott, Dakota and Hennepin counties.
“To the extent that a beautiful location at a difficult time can perhaps ease someone’s pain a little bit is a very significant consideration,” Mayor of Minnetonka Brad Wiersum said. “I’m pleased the medical examiner's office is going to be in Minnetonka.”
The council voted to construct the building and referred it to the Planning Commission during its Sept. 16 meeting after hearing from the developer and county. The Planning Commission also heard from the developer during its Sept. 19 meeting and then voted to recommend the City Council approve the developer’s conditional use permit and site plan.
The new site will bring several improvements to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office from its current facility, including increasing the number of autopsy tables from seven to 12, a cooler that holds up to 100 bodies and postmortem CT scanning, which is a noninvasive form of identifying the cause of death.
The project was allocated $17.5 million in funding from the state over two legislative sessions.