Albany Labs Receive U.S. Recovery Act Funds

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 25, 2009 - 07:42:00 PM

A $28.4 million chunk of federal money is coming to Albany’s U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Regional Re-search Center at 800 Buchanan St. 

The funds, granted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will cover critical work at the center, said Agricultural Research Service (ARS) spokesperson Kim Kaplan. 

Speaking from ARS headquarters in Beltsville, Md., Tuesday afternoon, Kaplan said the funds are part of the $176 million her agency received for critical deferred maintenance on existing facilities. 

“For Albany, we’re using existing plans drawn up in two different years,” she said. All of the ARS funding is for what Kaplan called “off-the-shelf projects.” 

Recovery Act funding for Albany includes $25.3 million for renovation of the electrical and plumbing systems and additional repairs for the facility’s South Wing Laboratories. 

The additional $3 million will cover repairs at the main lab building and enclosures, including work on the fire detection and suppression systems, a new steam-heating distribution system, the lab hood exhaust systems and roof repairs. 

Because the plans were drawn up several years ago, Kaplan said the first stage of work will be to bring the designs up to current building and design codes. 

“As soon as they are updated, the plans will go out to bid, which we anticipate will happen by fall,” Kaplan said. 

A deadline for the award of bids has been tentatively set for next February, with construction to start soon thereafter. 

The estimated completion date is June 2012. 

Using U.S. Department of Labor equations, Kaplan said the work may create as many as 309 construction jobs.  

The research center is currently engaged on projects involving the creation of new plant varieties through genetic modification, research on new forms of plant-derived fuels, formulation of new food products and devising new food processing and packaging methods. 

“The city is happy to see it happen,” said Judy Lieberman, Albany assistant city administrator. “The one thing I would hope to see would be a project that includes more energy efficiency.” 

Though the source of the construction employees remains to be determined, Lieberman said bringing more jobs to the city should mean more business for restaurants and merchants along Solano and San Pablo avenues and—hopefully—perhaps some business for local construction suppliers as well. 

“As far as I’m concerned, more power to ‘em. It’s a pretty old facility and it needs work,” she said. 

The website announcing the grant contains a series of pictures revealing cracked concrete, stained walls and other reasons for the new construction. 

For more on the center and the Recovery act grants, see http://www.ars. usda.gov/recovery/albany.htm. 

The Albany facility received the second-largest sum under the ARS Recovery Act package, trailing only the $40.1 million allotment granted the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.