Jones coroner increases rates after commission’s decision to drop deputies’ health insurance

hgoodridge@macon.comMay 1, 2013 

When Jones County Coroner Jerry Bridges Sr. told county commissioners a few weeks ago he was not going to pick up and store bodies for the county anymore, he meant it.

Then he thought about what that meant.

“We’re going to do what we’ve been hired to do,” he said he told one of his deputies shortly after informing commissioners of his decision.

Jones County commissioners drew his ire, making him mad enough that he would threaten to turn his back on what he’s been doing in Jones County for more than two decades.

The commission said last month it was going to end its health insurance benefits for Bridges’ deputy coroners as of May 1.

While the coroner’s office hasn’t missed a day on the job, Bridges said he has increased his rates to the county. He used to charge $100 to store a body and $400 to remove one. He’s now charging $800 to remove and $200 to store.

“I hate it’s come to this, him out saying he’s raising fees,” said Mike Underwood, county administrator. “Why would he want to take it out on the taxpayers?”

Underwood said it came after much thought and analysis before commissioners decided to drop deputy coroners from the county’s health benefits.

“The commission was concerned with escalating cost,” Underwood said. “The board of commissioners felt it was in the best interest of Jones County taxpayers.”

While the commission says it’s ending providing health insurance benefits for part-time employees, Bridges challenges that members of the commission receive hospital benefits and they’re not full-time employees.

Bridges said he’s going to continue to fight for his deputies. Only three of them were on county insurance, including one whose child was recently diagnosed with spina bifida.

“They dropped them (from health insurance). Am I ticked off? You better believe it,” Bridges said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “This is not the last of it.”

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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