Ground was broken Wednesday, April 30, for the KBI forensics lab at Washburn University, celebrating a collaboration of six different agencies and organizations who are teaming up to bring Kansas’ crime-fighting capabilities into the 21st Century.
The Kansas Department of Administration (KDOA) played a key role in developing a plan whereby Washburn would construct and the KBI lease a new $55 million crime lab. The project brought together not just the KBI, the university and the KDOA, but also the Topeka Public Building Commission, the Attorney General’s office and the City of Topeka in what KBI Director Kirk Thompson called “a unique and creative collaboration.”
“Now more than ever, we need to form partnerships that create this kind of synergy,” said Governor Sam Brownback to the gathering at Washburn’s campus.
Brownback, Thompson, Washburn University President Jerry Farley, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast all spoke in celebration of the multi-agency effort.
“State agencies and a university – very different cultures,” said Farley. “But we demonstrated how they can work together to do something very special.”
Providing an essential component of the synergy praised by Brownback, the KDOA was central to the bonding and leasing efforts to finance the project, as well as providing support for the design and drafting of the facility. The agency will now serve as the “purchasing agent,” overseeing the work of private contractors.
“A lot of people in our agency did a lot of great work to make this possible and deserve a lot of credit,” said Mark McGivern, KDOA Director of Facilities and Procurement Management and a member of the Topeka Public Building Commission. “So much goes into a project like this, it’s been years in the making.”
The 100,000 square foot facility is slated for completion by October of 2015. It will house specific spaces for departments such as biology, DNA, toxicology, chemistry, firearm/tool mark, latent prints, trace evidence and digital forensics, as well as vehicle processing and evidence storage.
Schmidt said the lab will finally provide the tools the state has lacked in the area of forensic science for more than 20 years.
“There is no way to fix the problems we’ve had without highly skilled, educated specialists, and we haven’t had a facility that would allow us to build a recruiting and retention plan,” said Schmidt. “Come back in 18 months, and we’ll start a new era in Kansas law enforcement.”