Governor Mary Fallin says sublease agreement for new medical examiner’s office is vital step in winning back accreditation

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OKLAHOMA CITY – After nearly a decade of relocation efforts, the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will have a new home.

The board of directors for the chief medical examiner’s office, on Monday, approved a sublease agreement to move into the first and second floors of the 921 Building, 921 N.E. 23rd St. in Oklahoma City.

The OCME lost accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners in 2009 after being cited for deficiencies in its facilities.

“This agreement allows the state medical examiner’s office to move into a new facility and out of its old, cramped and dilapidated building,” said Governor Mary Fallin. “The medical examiner’s office lacks sufficient space for staff and agency operations, and it can’t be expanded. This is a vital step in winning back accreditation for the medical examiner’s office, which conducts the important work of determining the cause of death for victims of violent or suspicious deaths.”

The Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office purchased the 921 Building in 2015 to provide the OCME with Class A laboratory facilities and office space.

CLO will lease the property to 921 Building, LLC, which was created by real estate developer Charles Wiggin.

The building formerly housed the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

“This is a win-win for the state,” Fallin said. “With the CLO owning the building, the lease payments it collects will go directly with other funds it collects and distributes to public schools and higher education.”

“We are all thrilled at the prospect of moving to the new facility, which will be state of the art,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Eric Pfeifer. “Our current building is derelict and unsafe and would not qualify for even veterinary medicine standards, and now we will be able to practice with safety, professional dignity and offer Oklahoma’s decedents greater dignity in their care as well. Nearly every employee here at the OCME has participated in some way with the design process, and we feel this new building will exhibit our collective values.”

The floors the OCME will occupy are to be gutted and retrofitted with state-of-the-art equipment, new lab spaces, plumbing, electrical wiring, walls and ceilings.

Construction is set to begin in early 2017, with a move-in date and commencement of the 25-year lease scheduled for Oct. 1, 2017.

“Leadership from Governor Fallin, the Legislature, particularly Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Clark Jolley, and Finance, Administration and Information Technology Secretary Preston Doerflinger were important in providing a sufficient and quality space for an agency that is a vitally important part of state government,” said CLO Secretary Harry Birdwell. “The medical examiner’s office has been trying for years to find a solution, and we are pleased to be able to help another state agency while also generating revenue to support public education.”

The new sublease agreement was executed by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

“OMES was pleased to partner with the Commissioners of the Land Office to provide the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner with a facility that will enable them to continue to provide their vital services to the citizens of Oklahoma,” said OMES Real Estate and Leasing Services Director Melissa Milburn.