(The Center Square) – Most of West Virginia’s state-owned laboratories have serious inadequacies and inefficiencies, which are reaching a critical point, according to a report from the Performance Evaluation and Research Division.
PERD toured the facilities that house the state’s major laboratory testing programs and found most of them are old, were not built for lab purposes and don’t have sufficient space. The legislative auditor directed PERD to conduct the audit. Some of the laboratories included in the report were under the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Public Health.
According to the report, nearly all of the laboratories were in facilities that were created in the middle of the 1900s. In addition to all of them lacking space, they also lack facility upgrades and remodeling to maintain modern standards. The report found that these problems put current programs at risk and prevent new testing programs. Some of them also lack secure perimeters.
“The facilities of West Virginia state-owned laboratories have surpassed their useful lives in most cases,” the report’s conclusion read. “Laboratories are specialized buildings with technical and mechanical requirements that make retrofitting non-laboratories buildings difficult. The legislative auditor concludes that the State is at a critical point in its lab programs, and it is imperative that the concerns raised in this report be addressed.”
The report gave the state three possible courses of action. The state could build separate facilities for each laboratory or build one co-located laboratory for every agency to share. However, the report concluded that the most prudent and logical option would be to co-locate the labs at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston and construct new facilities for the programs that cannot be accommodated at Tech Park.
According to the report’s recommendations, the legislature should consider contracting with an architectural firm to develop estimates regarding the specific costs associated with each of the options and the needs for every laboratory. If the laboratories are co-located, the report recommended that the state utilize the West Virginia Regional Technology Park because it owns the property and has already invested $10 million into it.