JACKSON, Miss. - The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) held a groundbreaking ceremony today to mark the beginning of construction on the new Public Health Laboratory.
State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson officiated at the groundbreaking, removing the first ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt with Dr. Lucius "Luke" Lampton and Dr. Ed Hill, members of the Mississippi State Board of Health.
The new Public Health Laboratory will be 60,000 square feet, twice the size of the current lab. General obligation funds were authorized and issued to fund the $25 million laboratory. Much of the new equipment purchased for the lab through federal funding sources sits unused because of the limited electrical capacity in the current facility. Construction is expected to last 18 months.
The facility will replace the agency's current lab which, at 50 years old, is no longer adequate to support the kind of technology needed to protect the state's citizens from disease outbreaks, harmful environmental contaminants, and emerging public health threats.
"The current lab facility has outlived its usefulness to effectively function as a 21st century laboratory," said Dr. Thompson. "Lack of space and wiring issues restrict the lab's capacity for future public health program expansions, and adversely affect current testing operations."
Thompson added, "The new laboratory isn't just a great thing for our agency, it's a great thing for the people of our state."
State-of-the-art laboratory equipment in the new facility will allow the agency to efficiently detect infectious diseases, identify harmful environmental contaminants, and rapidly respond to biological terrorism agents. The availability of these services ensures greater public health care and protection at nominal cost to the public and the state.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have built new public health labs in the past 10 years (most within the past five years), or have approved new labs now in the planning or construction phase.
State Health Laboratory Facts
- Building site is property currently owned by the state on the MSDH main campus in Jackson
- Size of new lab building: 60,000 sq. feet — twice the size of the current public health laboratory, in use since 1959.
- The state Department of Finance and Administration has selected architects Dale & Associates and contractor White-Spunner Construction. Initial architectural cost already paid by MSDH.
- State general obligation bonds were authorized and issued to fund the new Public Health Laboratory.
- Construction is set to begin March 1, 2009, and expected to take 18 months to complete.
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson and members of the State Board Health prepare to turn the first shovels of dirt during groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Public Health Laboratory. The ceremony was held at the agency’s central office on Thursday, February 12. Board members are, from left, Dr. Alfred McNair, Ocean Springs; Ron Robertson, Greenwood; Dr. Elayne Anthony, PhD, Madison; Sammie Ruth Rea, Brandon; Dr. David Williams, Clinton; Dr. Luke Lampton, Magnolia; Dr. Ed Hill, Tupelo; Dr. Patrick Kyle, PhD, Interim Director, Public Health Lab; and Dr. Thompson.