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Lubbock County voters approve bond for “state-of-the-art” medical examiner’s facilities

Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office design
Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office design

Since 2019, Lubbock County has contracted autopsy services to Tarrant County — more than 300 miles away, after a slew of controversies from mismanagement and backlogged cases out of the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s office brought local services to a halt, with investigations by the FBI and Texas Rangers.

As the administrative medical examiner, Dr. Charles Addington has worked since 2020 to resolve issues like backlogged cases. Now, he’s coordinating with county officials and contractors to design the facilities that would bring autopsy services back to Lubbock County.

The facilities will cover more than eight acres of land in North Lubbock with space for 200 refrigerated bodies and 90 frozen bodies, as well as eight autopsy tables and room for families to meet with medical officials. The facilities will also provide a learning space for medical students and resources for emergency teams in the event of disasters.

With the pool of qualified pathologists around the country already limited, County Judge Curtis Parrish has previously expressed the positive impact he believes these facilities would have on “changing the reputation” for Lubbock County MEs, as well as providing for decades of needs for the area in and beyond Lubbock County.

On top of contracts with Tarrant County costing Lubbock $100,000 a month, examiners have leased a building from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center at a cost of more than $300,000 a year. That money, with deals from nearby counties already expressing interest in contracting with Lubbock County’s new facilities, could be directed to cover future operating costs.

Parrish has referred to the facilities as a “shovel-ready project,” with months of planning already taken care of and construction intended to be finished in early 2026. This is supposed to reassure skeptical local voters who have watched projects like the $87 million Expo Center in north Lubbock fail to lift a board in almost five years since it was approved.

$10 million of the Medical Examiner’s facilities’ more than $45 million bill will come from federal funding. The rest is approved in the bond. The cost will increase property taxes by an estimated $15 a year for a $200,000 home in Lubbock County.

Tarrant County, where medical examiners have not been without their own controversies, will continue to provide Lubbock’s autopsy services while the facilities are being built.