A Republican lawmaker has drafted a bill that would require Minnesota to sell a facility it purchased for the storage of deceased COVID-19 patients.
Due to a projected surge in COVID-19 fatalities, the state of Minnesota spent $6.9 million in May to acquire a warehouse for the “temporary storage of human remains.” As of early June, however, the facility had yet to be used.
“No bodies have been stored to date. This facility is to serve as backup in case it is needed. Based on the experience we saw from other states, we wanted to make sure that the bodies of Minnesotans would be able to be handled with dignity and respect,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) in a letter.
The facility is located in Ramsey County and was a Bix Produce warehouse before it was converted into a morgue.
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners expressed its “alarm and concern” with the purchase in a letter to Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly. The area surrounding the facility is home to “some of the lowest per-capita incomes anywhere in Minnesota,” the board said.
The commissioners warned Kelly that converting the facility into a morgue could have “severe implications for the commercial viability of this site and of broader redevelopment in the area.”
Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) said she has heard from constituents who are frustrated with the state’s decision to use tax dollars to purchase “a mega morgue when it will never be needed.”
Franson drafted a bill that would, if passed, require the state to sell the facility.
“The commissioner of administration shall sell at private sale, public auction, or other means, for fair market value, the facility recently purchased from Ramsey County that is located at 1415 L’Orient Avenue in the city of St. Paul and was to be used for temporary storage of the remains of persons who have died from COVID-19,” Franson’s proposed bill states.
The bill could be considered during a special session that is expected to begin next week.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Minnesota House Chamber” by Chris Gaukel. CC BY-SA 2.0.