Designers, state meet at future crime lab

John Hacker

The old McCune-Brooks Hospital emergency room is "ideal" for conversion to a Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab, and will provide much needed space for the facility now housed at Missouri Southern State University.

Officials with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the State Office of Administration, the city of Carthage and the Springfield design firm of Buxton, Kubik and Dodd met Wednesday at the old hospital on Centennial Avenue to iron out details of the $1 million project to convert part of the building into the patrol's latest crime laboratory.

Officials who will manage the construction say the entire project will likely take a little more than a year, but Bill Marbaker, assistant director of the patrol's crime lab division, said the crime lab can't wait that long to move over from Joplin.

"We've got to move that up, we may move in while construction is still going on," Marbaker said. "There is a great need for us to have that space and have it in a hurry, so if we have to move in while they're still sanding and painting we will. Missouri Southern has plans for that space over there and we need to get the lab out of there well before 12 months is up."

Gary Claspill, section leader for the Missouri Office of Administration, will oversee the construction work on the project.

He said workers will separate the former emergency room and x-ray laboratory sections of the old hospital from the rest of the building, providing completely independent heating and air condition, electrical and mechanical systems as well as structural and fire-proofing improvements that will protect the patrol's section in case something happens to the rest of the building. The project will include replacing the roof.

"It's a little bit over a million dollars for the total project. We've identified $768,000 specifically for construction and the rest is for design fees and contingency fees, printing advertising and other fees."

The legal property line will also be redrawn to make the former emergency room section a separate piece of property from the rest of the old hospital.

Claspill said Wednesday's meeting was the beginning of the construction process.

"This is kind of a kick-off meeting to the project," Claspill said. "We've met with the design team and gone over the scope of work and scope of service so they can give us a proposal to provide the professional services."

Claspill said the designers will prepare a design in the next six months, then a contractor will be chosen to make the changes.

Marbaker said converting the former emergency room to a crime lab will involved mainly security and safety upgrades as well as minor reconfiguration of some of the offices and rooms.

He said the patrol is committed to accrediting the new lab and the additional space and safety improvements will be essential to that process.

"It was just maxed out," Marbaker said. "Dr. (Phil) Whittle has been running that lab for many years and they've gone from one to two to three to however many criminalists they have now and they're not able to really do their jobs now, they've just outgrown their facility. This opportunity came with the McCune-Brooks Hospital move and this emergency room is just ideal for a crime lab. It's going to require very minimal reconfiguring."

Carthage Press