New plan for dealing with unclaimed bodies in Winnebago Co.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WITI) -- When bodies sit at the morgue with seemingly no one to claim them in Winnebago County, it is the county's responsibility to bury them. Because this is expensive, the county has come up with a plan to help cut costs.

When most people die, there is usually a funeral with a cremation or burial to follow.
But not everyone has family or the money to make that happen.

"Unfortunately there are indigents, there are people who don't have anything, people who've worked all their life and can't come up with a couple thousand dollars and that's pretty sad," Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby said.

Busby says the county deals with about two unclaimed bodies a year.

The burials cost about $4,000 each, which the county is on the hook for.

Busby worked with the county to pass a new ordinance. Now, any bodies not claimed within seven days can be cremated.

That would cost no more than $500.

Busby says his office will do all it can to find a family member within that week.

"Through the internet and all of the mass media, anything we can do to find out who might be the next of family," Busby said.

The county is considering some other options. For example, the Catholic Cemeteries of Oshkosh has stepped forward to help.

"We have spaces here. We'd give them free. It's part of our faith that this is part of our completion here on Earth," Thomas Donovan, the administrator of Catholic Cemeteries of Oshkosh said.

Donovan says the requirement that a person be Catholic would not apply.

"We would waive them in this situation, because of the nature," Donovan said.

For now, though, Busby says the ordinance is the first step and will help give the unclaimed some dignity.

"They deserve a proper burial or cremation or at least something to happen," Busby said.

Busby says he is considering some other options -- including donating some bodies to science.