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Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said Tuesday that the Governor's Office set aside $4.25 million in the upcoming budget to pay for a new regional forensic center that will be built in Knoxville.

The center, which will relocate from the University of Tennessee Medical Center to a former surgery center on Sullins Street near downtown, will be designed to perform autopsies and provide crucial investigative information to law enforcement throughout East Tennessee.

The operation should be up and running by December.

"I appreciate Governor Haslam's support of this important regional facility," Burchett said in a released statement. "When it's finished, this center will serve several East Tennessee counties by providing access to forensic pathology resources and Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic's expertise. I look forward to having the new center up and running by the end of this year."

Dr. Mileusnic is one of a small group of just over 400 forensic pathologists in the United States.

The county's current 9,000-square foot facility opened in the late 1990s and is no longer big enough to handle the ever increasing caseloads, nor does it always have enough room to preserve bodies.

The new facility, which cost $1 million, is roughly 18,000-square feet. However, it will cost $4.25 million to renovate.

County officials said late last year that if Gov. Bill Haslam couldn't include the money in his upcoming budget then they would either build a smaller facility to serve only Knox County, or they can take out a short-term, low interest loan to pay for it.

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