(WSVN) - Broward County calls it a state-of-the-art forensic science center, but many of those who will be living near it call it a county morgue they don’t want. Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s 7 Investigates.
Right now, it is an empty, sandy plot of land in Fort Lauderdale, but when Sharon Alexander stares at this site, her emotions begin to erupt.
Sharon Alexander, resident: “It is heartbreaking.”
What you are looking at is the future home of the Broward County Forensic Science Center. It will house both a new Broward Sheriff’s Office crime lab and the County Medical Examiner’s Office that is currently in Dania Beach.
Sharon Alexander: “No one wants to say, ‘Pass the morgue and you’ll reach my house. Pass the morgue, and I am the community left of it or right of it.’ No one wants that, and that’s what we’ll have.”
Kevin Ozebek: “Raise your hand if you’re deeply opposed to the Medical Examiner’s Office opening here.”
As you can see, Sharon is far from alone in her opposition.
April Young, resident: “It’s going to degrade our community that we work so hard for.”
The forensic science center will be built along Northwest 23rd Avenue, a predominantly Black community.
The back of the building will be near Rock Island Elementary School.
Angela Grant, parent: “That’s too close to any school, period. I have two young kids that go to that school.”
John Morrison, resident: “Who wants to go to school next to a morgue? The whole thing is just outrageous.”
But, as Broward County sees it…
Monica Cepero, Deputy Broward County Administrator: “This is actually an investment in their community.”
Monica Cepero is the county’s deputy administrator.
Monica Cepero: “There’s only one entrance in and out. It’s not going to be near the elementary school. None of the kids are going to see anything. No one will actually see what is going on.”
That is, unless they enter the facility to visit a section designed to educate the public about forensic science.
Cepero says it will provide a great opportunity for the nearby students.
Monica Cepero: “It’s going to be a partnership that we want to actually bring folks into from the community to see, and we welcome them into community rooms and training opportunities.”
Many in the community, though, aren’t buying into this proposed partnership.
John Morrison: “We don’t need a county morgue in our neighborhood for our kids to learn about forensic science. They need to place this someplace else.”
John Morrison and many of his neighbors feel this facility is being dumped on them.
John Morrison: “Those folks in Parkland would not dare accept a county morgue in their neighborhood. They wouldn’t put it in Weston.”
Kevin Ozebek: “Do you think this would be built in a neighborhood that didn’t have these similar demographics?”
Sharon Alexander: “Absolutely not.”
The county says it picked this land simply because it was available and met the criteria.
Monica Cepero: “We continue to be sensitive to the needs and the concerns of the community. We will listen every step of the way.”
Sharon has started a petition, and she’s hoping she can get the county to change course.
Sharon Alexander: “I’m going to stand up, and I am going to shout to the top of my voice: ‘This is not happening in this community.'”
Sharon says she doesn’t feel she’s fighting a losing battle because construction hasn’t started yet, but the county plans to break ground here in 2023.
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