RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — An area that’s seen explosive growth in the last 10 years could soon be home to a new forensic center.
“We got one shot at this,” said Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr. “This is our shot.”
Mayor Carr said they are eyeing 10 acres off Weakley Lane in Smyrna to house the state’s next regional forensic center.
“We don’t have facilities and resources even with our preparedness, and so this is going to answer that question,” he said.
Carr said this center has been in the works for over 15 years, but the county’s rapid growth and a global pandemic pushed them to put the wheels in motion on the forensic center.
“What happens if we have a mass causality event like they had in East Palestine, Ohio?” he asked. “Where you have a train derailment or something of that nature, what are we going to do in a situation like that?”
The state of Tennessee currently has five forensic centers throughout the state, with one located in Davidson County.
Carr said bringing a new center will allow Rutherford County to perform autopsies, which in turn will lighten the load for the forensics team in Nashville.
“The forensic center in Davidson County services 53 different counties, which is over half the county population in Tennessee,” he said. “So there’s a real need because the services are being stretched all across the state in this regard for forensic services.”
Carr said the location in Smyrna works best because of the access to nearby interstates and the airport.
There are also plans to partner with Middle Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College for teaching opportunities.
“What we have in the United States is a real shortage of…forensic pathologists,” said Carr. “So now if we can use this as a part of a teaching tool to train forensic pathologists, then we’ve added to the need of the community and, quite honestly, regionally and across the United States.”
Carr said they are meeting with the governor soon to try to secure $21 million in federal funding to make this dream a reality.
If all goes well, he said the center could come to Rutherford County in the next two years.
“The responsibility is on us to make the presentation, to make the justification, (and) to get the award,” Carr said.
According to Carr, there are also plans to house the state medical examiner in the new facility as well.
If everything gets approved, the grant money, which would be COVID relief dollars, would be used to build the facility and then the county would assume operational costs.