Lubbock County taxpayers are now paying for a new office. Monday afternoon the county officially took over responsibility of the medical examiner's office as Dr. Sridhar Natarajan was sworn in as Chief Medical Examiner.
Dr. Natarajan was sworn in before a nearly full Commissioner's Court. Those filling the seats included some from Lubbock Police Department, Lubbock County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office. Monday, marks a new chapter for Lubbock County, as Natarajan begins to build an office the county judge says will cost more than $1.5 million a year to run.
He is a familiar face. But this time Dr. Sridhar Natarajan has some new responsibilities and new bosses.
"Report directly, I will, to the commissioners' court and that system has been used before in Texas and if we had some issues in the past that may have been issues they may not have been, I think we'll be able to have clearer answers," Natarajan said.
Nearly three years ago, Natarajan resigned as the county medical examiner. Since then he has worked in San Antonio. However, with Monday's oath, Natarajan replaces Doctor Thomas Beaver and no longer answers to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. Instead, he now runs a county office.
"We'll be going through a hiring process and we're just going to ensure that we have a peer review set in place, appropriate investigations done and just build on what we have," Natarajan said.
While the office is not changing locations, Natarajan says it will not be cheap to set up. In fact, some of the major expenses come in the form of paychecks.
"Natarajan's salary is $450,000, there's an administrator, there's a chief investigator and then the technician we approved today (Monday)," County Judge Tom Head said.
Head says he hopes to diffuse some costs by picking up business from dozen of surrounding counties. But Natarajan says that will require more staff.
"We need about four or five doctors to handle a full case load in doing that it will reduce our expense because we'll be sharing them with West Texas," Natarajan said.
Natarajan says he hopes to be ready to contract services with surrounding counties within two years. However, the relationship between Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and the county is not totally over. NewsChannel 11 will explain tonight at ten.