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Governor Wants to Build New Public Health Lab in Pierre with $69M in Biden ARPA Funds

Contrary to my frequent criticism, Governor Kristi Noem doesn’t completely refuse to invest in science and public health. Her proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes $69 million to build a new public health laboratory in Pierre and renovation the existing DOH lab facility:

The Bureau of Administration, Office of the State Engineer (BOA), and DOH engaged the engineering company HDR to provide a comprehensive assessment of space and infrastructure needs of the South Dakota Public Health Laboratory (SDPHL). The HDR assessment revealed that public health laboratory needs can no longer be met by the existing building. Space available for laboratory operations is currently one half of what is needed. Science and technology have advanced since the original building was designed and constructed over twenty-five years ago. Critical building systems, including air-handling, are operating at maximum capacity and not able to accommodate new or emerging testing requirements.

The recommended solution involves construction of a new laboratory facility and DOH administrative service and training building immediately adjacent to the existing PHL Building on existing state-owned land. Following construction and relocation of the state public health laboratory to the new facility, the PHL Building will be renovated as administrative and training space. This solution will allow relocation of all DOH central office staff to a single location consistent with BOA goals of utilizing state-owned space as well as create capacity to train current and future healthcare workforce including laboratory staff, infection control managers, clinical staff, disease prevention and community nursing staff, and others [Bureau of Finance and Management, “Public Health Laboratory Construction Project,” FY 2023 Budget Topic Briefs, 2021.12.07].

More lab space, better air circulation (or, in case of contagion, better air isolation and filtration!), getting everyone under one roof—all very sensible, especially as we brace for the next pandemic.

We can thank the current pandemic for this investment. South Dakota can have nice things, but only if the federal government pays for them:

The project will be funded through federal ARPA Capital Construction funds, which need federal approval. Total one-time cost associated with construction of a new laboratory facility and renovation of the existing PHL Building is estimated at $69,000,000. Of the project total, HDR estimates construction and renovation expenses to be $55,000,000, and an additional $14,000,000 is projected for expenses associated with architectural design, site preparation, building commissioning, and professional relocation of scientific instrumentation [BFM, 2021.12.07].

Thank you, President Biden, for making improvements to South Dakota’s public health facilities possible. Maybe Governor Noem will invite President Biden to Pierre to dedicate the building… which should, of course, be named the “Joe Biden Public Health Laboratory.”

Kristi Noem can only imagine driving around South Dakota and the entire country, pointing to public health laboratories, bridges, libraries, and other great public works, and saying, honestly, "I did that!" Ah, the greatness of Joe Biden…. Matt Hildreth, tweet, 2021.12.07.
Kristi Noem can only imagine driving around South Dakota and the entire country, pointing to public health laboratories, bridges, libraries, and other great public works, and saying, honestly, “I did that!” Ah, the greatness of Joe Biden…. Matt Hildreth, tweet, 2021.12.07.


  1. Nick Nemec 2021-12-08

    This is a hell of a lot better use of pandemic funding than building a giant water pipeline to Rapid City and the Black Hills.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-12-08

    Healthcare paid for by the federal government, controlled by the state. Who needs Medicaid expansion? Just put more money into Medicaid fraud.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-12-08

    If you build it and stack it with Quack-anon magats who don’t believe in science, what have you gained?

  4. Loren 2021-12-08

    Do Trumpublicans really believe that science and tech have evolved over the last 25 years? Why don’t they apply that logic to climate, vaccines… They certainly are a “selective” bunch!

  5. cibvet 2021-12-08

    So we need a NEW building, to house NEW employees, for a NEW pandemic to repeat the old crap of ” vaccinations are a choice, masks are useless and handwashing is for pussies”. Doesn’t sound like welfare money well spent, more like kickbacks to her pub grifters.

  6. Francis Schaffer 2021-12-11

    I am not sure this can possibly work; especially in Pierre. I imagine we will have to employee more people and should choose the best available for the goals of the DOH. So to attract these people will Pierre be the best available location in South Dakota to do so? Also, the vast majority of health care issues are being addressed in Sioux Falls; maybe a location there would suit this new building/department? I don’t see where the operating budget is being addressed. Also, what will this venture allow us to do which is currently not being done or being done inadequately? The other issue for the health discussion; for some, is no longer fact or science based as it is used as some badge of honor to be living in freedom to choose which rules are an acceptable infringement upon individual behavior or choice. As I listened to the radio this morning, I heard 2398 South Dakotans have died from Covid. As the lives lost to Covid continue to accumulate in South Dakota, we may eventually reach 3,000 souls lost. Had we experienced this in a day, similar to 9/11, the public would demand answers and a cogent plan to find the cause and respond appropriately. Crickets on that. What I haven’t said is I don’t trust Governor Noem to be able to manage this project as it will be no better than her Covid response.

  7. Porter Lansing 2021-12-11

    “Vaccines are no more a choice than car insurance is a choice.”

    It doesn’t matter what you want; it matters what protects the other guy.”

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