Funding pends for new state crime lab in Anchorage

Posted: Tuesday, April 06, 2010

ANCHORAGE - One decision remaining for lawmakers in Juneau is how to fund $76 million for a new state crime lab in Anchorage.

The Anchorage Daily News reports nearly $17 million has already been spent on the design and an architect says the project is hammer ready.

Gov. Sean Parnell says the existing lab is outdated and overcrowded, and the new lab is needed to optimize the use of DNA and other crime-solving technology.

Sen. Tom Wagoner of Kenai says the current lab built in 1986 is still functional, and there's no need to build something entirely new. "It doesn't have to be a Taj Mahal, it doesn't have to have all the window dressing on it," Wagoner said.

The current lab is 19,200 square feet with about 40 full-time employees. The proposed lab would be about 84,000 square feet.

The $76 million would pay to complete about 81 percent of the building, leaving 19 percent unfinished "shell space" for future needs.

Crime lab manager Orin Dym said the Legislature needs to determine whether to fund it with general fund money or bonds. If it goes to a bond election in November, the state will miss the summer construction season.

A group called Alaska Policy Forum, which describes itself as a resource for research from a "conservative perspective," came out with a report last month criticizing the planned facility as a "monster lab" - too big and too lavish for what it needs.

Sen. Hollis French of Anchorage said the lab project has been overdue for several years, and it's time to move forward.

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