After ending in a tie vote this past March, the state Bond Commission voted 7 to 3 on Wednesday in favor of borrowing $69.4 million to build a new public health laboratory on state-owned land in Rocky Hill.
Faced with what they felt were more questions than answers, state Comptroller Nancy Wyman, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, voted against the proposal.
The trio expressed concerns about future plans to expand the lab from a bio safety level 3 facility to a level 4, where more dangerous materials would be handled.
Local lawmakers like Rep. Anthony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, and Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, said that aside from being blindsided by plans to construct the lab, they’re concerned the facility could be upgraded to test for more dangerous chemicals.
“If it wasn’t good for New Britain, why is it good for Rocky Hill?” Doyle said.
New Britain was one of the 12 locations considered by state officials when it was first determined the lab’s current location on Clinton Street in Hartford could not be rehabilitated. The New Britain location was ruled out because of its proximity to a school.
Click here to read their letter to the governor which outlines all of their concerns over the location of the lab.
Department of Public Health officials say the state has no intention of upgrading to a bio safety level 4 facility. A state public health official told the Bond Commission that there is no level 4 lab anywhere in the United States.
Michael Lanteri, who lives in the Rocky Hill neighborhood where the lab is to be built, said neighbors are “up in arms” over the lab, where scientists will test everything from tuberculosis to encephalitis. Lanteri said he only learned about the construction plans in March.
Office of Policy and Management Deputy Secretary Michael Cicchetti said the state has no intention to use the new lab as anything but a level 3 facility.
The new, 110,000-square-foot laboratory will be built on a 22-acre site near the Veterans Home.
The special meeting of the Bond Commission was called Wednesday because the state would have lost the $12 million in savings on the construction bid had it not approved the borrowing for the project by next week.