A $4 Million Problem: Fixing The Georgia Poultry Laboratory

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, seen here in WABE studios, said the problem with the Georgia Poultry Laboratory goes back to the plans, which were approved by the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission.

Emilia Brock / WABE

At a joint budget hearing before state legislators Wednesday, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black explained that the department needs $4 million to fix a poorly-designed part of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory in Hall County.

“It’s been a point of consternation since almost the day we cut the ribbon,” he said of the building. “I’m real disappointed. Aggravated if you want to know.”

Black said the problem goes back to the plans, which were approved by the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission.

“There’s no way in the world these plans should have ever been signed off on and they were,” Black said. “And this is a $4 million problem to fix it and get it back open.”

The commission did not respond to a request for comment.

“I wouldn’t mind being held accountable if I was signing off on all the plans, but I don’t get to do that,” Black said.

The Georgia Poultry Laboratory handles diagnostic testing for the poultry industry, and the highly sensitive laboratory affected handles things like avian influenza. The building cost about $14 million and opened in January 2015.

Black said because of vibrations that were damaging the seal on that laboratory they had to move employees out of the building last April. On top of that, the building has been plagued with roof leaks, he said.

“We as Georgia didn’t do a good job of managing building this building,” he said. “This building’s been leaking, there’s been problems since the day we moved in.”

State Rep. Al Williams demanded accountability.

“I haven’t noticed any indictments or anything. We just kissed $14 million bye,” he said. “Somebody needs to be held accountable for $14 million of taxpayer’s money.”

The contractors and design professionals who worked on it are out of business now, and Black said he is having trouble finding any recourse he said. He has reached out to the Attorney General for legal advice.