Gov. Tim Walz’s administration purchased a warehouse for $6.9 million in May to be used for the “temporary storage of human remains,” but the facility was recently converted into a storage space for vaccines and other medical supplies.
The facility was intended to serve as “a building where we can properly handle with dignity and respect and safety the bodies of Minnesotans who may fall victim to the coronavirus,” Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said at the time of the purchase.
“It’s an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, but we need to have a capability, we need to have a plan for a large number of deaths,” he said.
As of Monday, Minnesota had a total of 2,083 COVID-19 fatalities, 1,487 of which occurred in long-term care facilities.
Lawmakers learned in June that the warehouse had yet to be used for its intended purpose, which remains the case.
In fact, the “state-owned morgue has been repurposed as a vaccine storage facility,” according to a recent letter from three Republican legislators.
State Reps. Jim Nash and Marion O’Neill as well as Sen. Michelle Benson requested a tour of the facility after discovering that the media were prohibited from entering for “security purposes.”
“Due to the recent media reports about the status of the facility, it has been brought to our attention that the original plans for the building have currently changed,” the three said in a Sept. 23 letter to Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, whose agency currently oversees operations of the warehouse.
They were granted a tour of the facility Wednesday and recorded their experience. According to the video, the building is filled with pallets of testing supplies, medical gowns and related items.
“From my perspective, the citizens of Minnesota bought something that we didn’t need,” Nash says in the video.
“This building is not being used for its intended purpose,” adds Benson. “The purchase wasn’t transparent to the Legislature and the decisions being made aren’t transparent. This is a consequence of the emergency powers and the governor not working with the Legislature.”
This afternoon, Representative Jim Nash, Representative Marion O'Neill, and Senator Michelle Benson were finally allowed to tour the $7 million state-owned morgue, purchased by Governor Walz earlier this year. The takeaway: it was an unnecessary use of taxpayer funds, was never and will never be used for its intended purpose, and is a shining example of why the legislature needs to be involved in these decisions — governing by the whims of one man is not working.
Posted by Minnesota House Republican Caucus on Wednesday, September 30, 2020