By Associated Press • 

Future of Oregon state police crime lab in Pendleton debated

PENDLETON — Plans to find a new home for the Oregon State Police crime lab in Pendleton because of a gnat infestation authorities have been unable to eliminate are gaining momentum, but there are disagreements about where it should go.

Some elected officials in eastern Oregon want it moved to Blue Mountain Community College from its current home in downtown Pendleton, while Gov. Kate Brown has proposed closing the lab and moving its staff to forensic facilities in Bend, Portland or Central Point, The East Oregonian reported Monday.

A gnat infestation has severely affected operations at the Pendleton location despite many efforts to eradicate the tiny bugs.

The Oregon State Police says keeping the lab running as-is would cost $1 million over the next two years.

The facility serves northeastern Oregon counties and Malheur County. It receives about 100 requests a month for case work, most of that drug and driving under the influence cases, the newspaper reported.

A move to the college also would bring the lab back to where it began. The state opened it the lab there in 1970 and moved it to its current location in 1986, said Calvin Davis, one of the scientists in charge of the forensic lab.

Keeping the lab where it is isn't a viable option because of the gnats that seem to come in through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, the newspaper reported.

Davis said the state has spent heavily to fix the problem but the level of contamination means the lab sends biological work such as searching for evidence on a bed sheet, to other state crime labs.

Casey White-Zollman, a spokeswoman for Blue Mountain Community College, told officials during a tour last week that the college's science and technology building could be updated to hold a crime lab and still serve students. But a new lab could also be constructed, which would provide tighter security, she said.

The college would hope to use the lab to provide its students with hands-on education even possible internships, she added.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.com

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