TOPEKA (KSNT) – You’ve probably seen the construction in downtown Topeka. Kansas Department of Administration (KDA) Chief of Staff Samir Arif says this is part of a reimagining effort in that part of town.
Arif told KSNT News the $72 million building, partially paid for with federal ARPA funds, being constructed at southwest Huntoon Street and southwest Topeka Boulevard will be the new Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) laboratory. The building will replace the current laboratory located at the Topeka Regional Airport.
“I’ve said in previous testimonies our plan is to dispose of that property in some manner,” KDA Deputy Secretary Frank Burnham said in a meeting on Sept. 20, 2023. “We have a property out there, obviously the same vintage as the Docking building that has some of the similar problems that Docking did. So there will be some cost associated with that. It’s a plan we’re working on and at the point that we have solid numbers we’ll be able to present those.”
The lab will be used to analyze water samples for the Kansas public water supply systems (PWS). The PWS is required to use services from Kansas-certified laboratories to analyze samples in line with the approved Environmental Protection Agency methods, according to the KDHE website.
On Sept. 20, Burnham alongside KDHE Director of Finance Amy Penrod presented current updates on the project to the Joint State State Construction Committee. Burnham said the project is on track to be completed by Nov. 2024 and is planned to be weather-tight by winter.
Senator Marci Francisco asked if there would be any expenditures from closing down or moving out of the former facility. Burnham said there will be a dual occupancy cost and some relocation costs.
Penrod said the KDHE will have a budget enhancement request to present that will cover the one-time expenses of moving, furnishing and equipment that will not make the move from the old lab.
“A lot of the equipment that will be moving from the lab at Forbes has to be carefully managed.” Penrod said. “A lot of the equipment requires a manufacturer or specialty company to pack up, recalibrate and possibly decontaminate equipment which is ‘very expensive’.”
Currently, the State of Kansas owns the land the old laboratory is on.
“We actually own the 30 acres which makes it very desirable for future development and again putting it on the tax rolls,” Burnham said. “It’s just, what is the exposure of the expense to the state to prep that site or that building, I think that’s part of the future discussion of negotiations.”
Francisco made a motion to recommend the five-year capital budget plan for the KDHE as presented with all in favor. You can view a live video of the building being constructed here. To watch the video of the Joint State Building Construction Committee, click here.