Crime Lab Potential Budget Cut Victim

One of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s proposed state budget cuts could make the job of law enforcement in the Upper Peninsula much harder.

If the cuts are approved as-is, the only state police crime lab in the U.P. will close.

This is actually the second time in 15 months that the Marquette facility has been targeted for closure.

There’s no funding for it in the proposed fiscal 2010 state budget.

Marquette City Police Det. Capt. Gordon Warchock says it seems that every time this issue has apparently been settled, it pops up again.

He adds this is bad news for every law enforcement agency in the U.P.

That’s because they rely on the Marquette lab for essential services.

Warchock says fingerprinting, polygraphing and bomb squad services are among the things the lab does that the Marquette police couldn’t afford to do on their own.

If the Marquette lab were to close, its caseload would be split among the 6 downstate labs.

But those 6 are already backlogged.

Marquette lab director David Stephens says that can be traced back to the Detroit lab closing last fall.

It costs about $1 million to keep the Marquette lab running for a year.

But Stephens says there are more costs to consider.

Part of the reason the lab is under the microscope is that it’s a rented space.

The landlord wants to occupy the building with a different tenant by the end of the year.

Stephens says it would cost $3.5 million to convert a different area building into a forensic lab.

The state legislature will have to decide the Marquette lab’s fate.

There’s no word yet on whether the 8 lab technicians would be laid off or if their jobs would be moved.

Right now, they’re trying to partner with prosecutors and lawmakers to keep serving the community.

Besides this attempted closure, and the one from November 2007, former Governor John Engler tried to shut down the Marquette lab in 1992.

Public protests helped keep it open on both prior occasions.