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.”