GENEVA – The black mold that prompted Kane County Coroner Rob Russell to close the morgue this month is not toxic, officials said Wednesday.
Speaking to the Finance/Budget Committee, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen described the substance as "common mold" and the situation as a "false alarm."
Russell, who was not at the committee meeting, said he didn't know whether the mold was toxic when it was discovered. Even though it's not, he said, the allergenic substance still needs to be remediated.
"Common mold isn't really a good term," Russell said.
While Russell and his staff are continuing administrative duties at the coroner's office in Geneva, autopsies and storage of bodies are being outsourced to the DuPage County Coroner's Office, he said.
Finance committee member Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, questioned the costs tied to using the DuPage facilities – a question Executive Finance Director Joe Onzick couldn't answer. Onzick did, however, say that the coroner's office is trending slightly over budget because of greater than budgeted payments for after-hour calls.
Russell said he has preliminary numbers from DuPage that "look very reasonable" but wants to make sure the costs include everything his office thinks they do.
"We're putting together an entire presentation with those figures," Russell said.
The coroner reports to the Judicial and Public Safety Committee, which next meets July 11. He intends to seek direction from the committee about his options: investing in new equipment – a cooler, freezer, HVAC system and keycard system – for the existing facility or begin plans for a new building, which could lead to a prolonged relationship with DuPage, he said.
"I have to address immediate concerns but simultaneously need to bring in future considerations," Russell said.
Lauzen said he is taking a "straight, linear approach" to solving the coroner's issues as they come up and is open to any solution that minimizes the bad and maximizes the good.
He said the majority of county personnel work to project a positive image of Kane County, but the good is being overshadowed by the coroner's news.
"I'm sorry we're getting negative national attention on the 5 percent," Lauzen said.