CROWN POINT | Newly named Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey has wasted no time since her Sept. 15 swearing-in, from revamping office protocol to replacing defective equipment to revising the budget methodology, she said Monday.
Frey and her top staff -- Chief Deputy David Pastrick and Administrative Officer Jessica Metros -- announced the host of changes, some immediate and some in the making, such as establishing closer ties with law enforcement to reduce costs.
Ten days in office, Frey has ordered the inventory of equipment and the immediate replacement of defective equipment, including autopsy carts, as identified by longtime staff.
In the last two weeks, the evidence room has been nearly emptied of stored personal belongings, now returned to families as a means of closure, she said.
Having lost two death investigators and a photographer to cutbacks, she found services to have been eroded, she said.
The remaining staff is limited and will be cross-trained to a defined standard of professionalism, she said.
Metros said she and Pastrick do not hold new positions, as rumored. Rather, they replace two individuals who were dismissed, she said.
A forensic nurse and working on her state certification as a coroner, Frey said a safe working environment will be provided to all employees. Employees are exposed to disease in both the transporting of the deceased and in the conducting of the autopsies, she said.
To minimize the cost of the new protocols, the office is partnering with the Lake County Health Department.
Frey also anticipates working closely with Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter and Sheriff John Buncich, both to work as a law enforcement team and to defray costs to taxpayers.
She has requested an audit by the State Board of Accounts to learn the situation of the office's accounts, she said.
Frey will rely on grants to help underwrite education and prevention services in such areas as SIDS and suicide, she said.