New State Crime Lab Goes Under Building Commission Microscope

Milwaukee Lab Could Cost Up To $75M

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel addresses the audience during his inauguration ceremony at the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, in Madison, Wis. Andy Manis/AP

Plans for a $75 million state crime lab for the Milwaukee area will be discussed Wednesday afternoon by the State Building Commission.

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed two-year construction or “capital” budget requests a new crime lab be built in western Milwaukee County or eastern Waukesha County.

It would replace a state lab on Milwaukee’s near south side. The current lab is about 40,000 square feet. The new building would be nearly four times as large, and include a state Department of Justice training center and field office.

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Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said the laboratory itself would be bigger, too, to reflect today’s needs.

“We have law enforcement now testing powders that they locate, we’re having them wear latex gloves, wear masks,” Schimel said. “You have to have elaborate exhaust systems, you have to have plenty of room.”

As of last year, the new lab’s price tag stood at $53 million. But now Walker wants up to $75 million borrowed. Schimel defends the possible increase.

“We want to make sure we’re not coming back asking for more and more and more. So, we kind of shot for the moon with it. Hopefully, it will come in lower than that,” Schimel said Tuesday in Wauwatosa.

Schimel also said DNA testing has greatly expanded in recently years, and needs more facilities.

The Walker administration has entered into a tentative agreement with a Milwaukee-area developer that would build the new crime lab, then possibly either lease or sell it to the state.

The governor said the project may cost less than $75 million, if the state can sell the current lab building.