Coroner seeks funds to add deputy as workload rises

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten wants funding to add another deputy coroner to her staff.

The new position would cost $130,000 annually. Some 90 percent of the cost would be paid by the federal government.

The coroner workload continues to climb because of county growth and the Charleston area’s popularity as a tourist destination, she said.

“Every year our numbers go up,” Wooten said.

Homicides, suicides and traffic deaths increased last year. Murders rose from 34 killings in 2013 to 47 violent deaths last year. There were 57 suicides in 2014, which is 14 more than the year before. Traffic deaths increased 11 percent to 51 fatalities last year, she said.

Wooten is asking for County Council approval to apply for federal funding for the new staff position through the Justice Assistance Grant Program.

“I don’t know if we can get it or not,” she said.

If OK’d, the grant would return tax dollars to the county, she said.

County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said that he supported the addition of a new deputy coroner. The county matching share of the grant would be $13,000, and those funds are already budgeted, he said.

“The Coroner’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office have been really good about making the most of the money we give them. She needs more personnel. As things grow, we need more people,” he said.

The new position would be added beginning July 1 at the start of the county fiscal year. On Tuesday, the Council Finance Committee will vote on Wooten’s request to seek the federal funding.

Wooten has five deputy coroners and a chief deputy coroner on her staff. The federal grant would fund salary, transportation, communications and computer technology, forensic photography and training for the new position. A 10 percent “non-federal” match is required, according to a summary of her request which County Administrator Kurt Taylor has recommended for approval.