Danedri Thompson
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Johnson County Board of Commissioners approved a $21 million contract Sept. 23 to build a new crime lab for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

The lab, to be located at 119th Street and Ridgeview Road in Olathe, will be connected to the county’s communications center that was completed last year. Officials anticipate the project will be completed in early 2012.

An artist's rendering of Johson County Sherrif's Department crime lab

Commission Chairman Annabeth Surbaugh said in a press release the new lab is a wise investment that ensures public safety remains a top priority.

“Our new crime lab will provide adequate work space, evidence storage, and room to keep pace with the growing technological advances in forensic science and crime analysis,” she said.

The county will pay more than $21 million for construction of the new space, but when design, equipment and furnishings are included the project will cost more than $30 million. Voters approved a revenue source to fund the project in 2008 when they approved a quarter-cent sales tax initiative to fund criminal justice and safety projects.

Sheriff Frank Denning said the new lab will help assure the successful prosecution of the guilty and the exoneration of the innocent.

“The sheriff’s office and the board of county commissioners have made a commitment to the public to provide the most powerful scientific tools to accomplish this goal,” Denning said.

The two-story criminalistics laboratory will house nine specialized labs in more than 62,500 square feet.

The nine labs will allow detectives to study biological, DNA, controlled substance, digital and multimedia, firearms and tool marks, impressions, latent prints and trace evidence in criminal investigations.

According to a press release, each of the nine labs requires separate environments for air pressure, air flow, temperature, noise control, vibration tolerance and lighting.

The new lab, as well as the existing lab in Mission, provides forensic services to all law enforcement agencies in Johnson County including 21 city police and fire departments as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Last year, the existing lab in Mission, handled 2,937 cases involving 17,646 items that were submitted for analysis for investigation and prosecution.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 15 at the construction site at 11880 S. Sunset Drive in Olathe.