During their Tuesday meeting, Commissioners heard the recommendation from Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, that they move forward with plans for the Crime Lab. It would expand and improve what is now the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, and would include a new building. She told Commissioners to consider the exponential growth of the incorporated areas of Harris County.
"I respectfully request to this court, to approve the sale and property acquisition, recommended by the Public Infrastructure Department, for the nine story institute. The voters approved a bond issue several years ago, design can begin in February."
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says Attorney Lykos' presentation was not needed for the court to approve the plan.
"Commissioner's Court is very proud of the Institute of Forensic Sciences. It is clearly cutting edge technology, but we're a rapidly growing community. Voters approved an $80 million bond several years ago to build the new Institute of Forensic Sciences or crime lab, as most people call it. And so, we're just progressing in that whole project."
Emmett says the project is already on the fast-track as District Attorney Lykos suggested, but there are still some hurdles to overcome.
"One of my concerns is to make sure that we don't have to redesign later. If we know it's going to be a regional crime lab that the city is going to participate in and others, let's o ahead and get it done right the first time, so that we're not doing this thing peace meal going forward."
The current Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences' facility is located on a tract of land in the Texas Medical Center, not far from where the new facility would be built.
"We have no back log on rape kits or anything else, so they're doing a really fine job. But they need better facilities and if we even put it on the fast-track, the soonest the new Institute of Forensic Sciences could be ready would be December of 2013. And with the growing population we have, we need to take those steps now."
And the new facility would provide independent forensic testing for area law enforcement agencies. Once again, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos:
"Scientists should be running laboratories, law enforcement should not. No police chief should have to make a decision on whether you put units on the street, or you put money in lab, and so, it's vital. And it also gives the appearance of impropriety when law enforcement controls science."