Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/05/2001 09:07 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSHB 51(FIN)-LEGIS APPROVAL OF SEAFOOD/FOOD SAFETY LAB KURT FREDRIKSSON, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), explained the purpose of CSHB 51(FIN) is to grant authorization for the issuance of certificates of participation for a lease-purchase agreement for a seafood and food safety laboratory. The existing laboratory in Palmer is 30 years old and DEC's lease expires December 31, 2003. The facility is woefully lacking in terms of what DEC needs to do to run a proper laboratory regarding confidence in lab results and employee safety. He offered to make available a videotape of the facility. He noted that DEC has worked with private consultants over the last few years on the possibility of moving into a more appropriate lab facility. DEC has found a piece of property and received a proposal. CSHB 51(FIN) provides the funds to build a DEC laboratory within the Anchorage area. The current lab performs a number of functions, the most important being seafood and food safety analysis; 80 percent of the lab work is associated with food safety. Other functions include: · certification of in-state laboratories for microbiological analysis of drinking water, · product and water sampling required by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, · routine testing of commercial bivalve shellfish for marine toxins, · analysis of finished seafood and general food products for pathogenic bacterial contamination, · analysis of fish for five toxic metals · evaluation and random sampling of finfish for chemical and bacterial contaminants and parasites · testing of animals required to maintain USDA brucellosis certification. DEC currently has 11 positions in the Mat-Su area that would move to the Anchorage area if a new lab is built. However, 14 staff who perform other non-lab related functions in the Mat-Su area would remain in their current location. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said DEC has had concerns about the cost of the facility and the appropriateness of its size. DEC worked with its prime contractor, Livingston Stone, to assess the appropriateness of the lab design and it also turned to other consultants with lab experience to determine whether the lab design is reasonable. The feedback from the contractors shows the laboratory proposal is efficient, cost-effective and reasonable, relative to the cost of labs in other parts of the country. He pointed out that the House Finance Committee reduced the amount requested in DEC's original proposal by about $1 million and 1500 square feet. The proposal has been pared down to the basics but still provides a safe working environment and reliable data. Number 1524 SENATOR WILKEN asked what prompted the move from Palmer to Anchorage. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said a number of factors: available space and an infrastructure to support a laboratory that is primarily seafood-related. The lab needs to have good access to an airport for receipt of samples to allow processing in a timely manner. The lab processes a lot of chemicals so it will need to be connected to a sewer system. DEC also looked for state-owned property to control costs. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked about the square footage of the facility. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said the total gross square footage of the current facility is approximately 10,000 square feet. The proposed facility is double that. The increase in space is not for staff space, it will be used to provide secure rooms for gas cylinders and for the ventilation system. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN noted the proposed facility is 20,500 square feet. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON clarified that number was reduced by 1500 square feet in the House so that the proposed square footage is now 19,141 square feet. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked what the cost of the new facility will be. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said the latest proposal will cost $12,788,000. SENATOR WILKEN questioned whether DEC believes that reduction is wise. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said he and Ms. Adair believe it will provide a "bottom line" operating facility. He informed the committee that John Wickersham, who has 19 years of lab experience with the USDA, reviewed the proposal and felt the Livingston Stone proposal was on target. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN agreed that a new lab is necessary but she is not sure the state needs a lab that will cost $676 per square foot. SENATOR DAVIS pointed out that a lab is a specialized facility. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said a laboratory consumes a lot of space to prevent cross-contamination. Secure rooms are necessary for gas cylinders; space must be dedicated to clean glassware; and separate space must be provided for laboratory mice. He pointed out the construction cost is $400 per square foot. Number 1895 SENATOR LEMAN asked if the proposed site at Boniface and Tudor is the best location. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said DEC has looked at every suggested area and determined that location to be the best. Its proximity to the DHSS lab will be an added benefit. DEC turned to Livingston Stone and Northern Economics for expert advice. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked what part Livingston Stone played. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRIKSSON said they did the conceptual design and looked at available space. He added DEC will not choose a design firm until this project is authorized. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked Deputy Commissioner Fredriksson to provide the committee with the guidelines or parameters DEC gave to Livingston Stone. She also asked about the financing procedure for this project. MS. JANICE ADAIR, Director of the Division of Environmental Quality, informed the committee the certificates of participation will be sold by the bond bank; the money will be available 60 to 90 days later. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked for clarification of when the debt will be incurred and when it will be repaid. SENATOR WILKEN pointed out that, according to fiscal note 3, DEC will have a 20 year lease at 6.1 percent interest. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FREDRICKSSON asked Ms. Adair to give the committee a brief description of the directions given to the contractors. MS. ADAIR said DEC first contracted with Livingston Stone three years ago. DEC asked Livingston Stone to analyze the work done at the laboratory and to design a conceptual replacement plan that is cost effective and would provide the safest and most efficient use of the space. DEC did not provide a dollar limit but it did stress that it must be cost effective. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN again asked for copies of that documentation and whether employees in Palmer would have to move. MS. ADAIR said even though the bulk of the functions are statewide functions, DEC does not plan to move those employees. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked if they will be located in the Mat-Su Valley 80 percent of the time or whether they will be expected to spend more time in Anchorage. MS. ADAIR explained that some staff will travel all over, such as the state veterinarian, the dairy sanitarian and the pesticide staff. Those positions have statewide responsibilities but the bulk of their work is done between the Mat-Su Valley and Delta Junction. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked if the work done by those positions overlaps with the Division of Agriculture. MS. ADAIR said Dr. Gore [the state veterinarian] works very closely with the Division of Agriculture staff. The pesticide program issues permits that the Division of Agriculture applies for. The dairy sanitarian inspects dairy farms. DEC provides regulatory oversight for things owned by the Division of Agriculture. She explained the Division of Agriculture inspectors look at quality or grading of eggs and agriculture crops. DEC only gets involved in inspecting those products when they get into the food chain so there is no duplication of services. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN said she has heard a great deal of concern about moving the non-laboratory positions out of Palmer. Tape 01-45, SIDE B SENATOR LEMAN asked for clarification of who will manage and own the project. MS. ADAIR explained the facility will be state-owned from the start. A design Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued and the lowest responsible bid will be accepted. The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) will then issue a construction RFP. SENATOR LEMAN asked if the state will use its normal selection process according to the procurement code. MS. ADAIR said it will. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN announced the committee would take a recess and reconvene at a call of the Chair. [NO RECORDING AVAILABLE] At 3:22 p.m., CHAIRWOMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services Committee back to order. Senators Wilken, Leman, Davis and Green were present. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN announced her intention to move CSHB 51(FIN) to the Senate Finance Committee so that it can be reviewed within the scope of the entire budget. She also announced that it is her intention that the DEC positions in the Mat-Su Borough, not connected with this project, remain in the Mat-Su Borough. SENATOR LEMAN moved CSHB 51(FIN) from committee with individual recommendations and its accompanying fiscal notes. The motion carried with no objections.