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Poultry lab now looking at fall opening

POSTED: July 16, 2014 12:14 a.m.

Dr. Louise Dufour-Zavala, right, and Freddie Smith, project coordinator at Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network, watch construction crews.

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The new Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network headquarters in North Hall County now appears headed for completion in midfall.

Construction and weather issues have delayed work on the 38,000-square-foot building, which had been set to finish this month, officials said during a tour of the lab Monday.

Walls and ceilings are up, and “we’re really close to getting the (finished) floor,” Executive Director Louise Dufour-Zavala said.

Still, walking between rooms and floors, including the second-floor mezzanine, where visitors will be able to see lab activity below through windows, was no trouble, even as Manhattan Construction workers moved around to perform various tasks.

Lab officials said they aren’t in a particular hurry to move, even though the new building will be far superior to the 50-year-old one off Oakwood Road in Oakwood.

“We’re operating at 100 percent,” Dufour-Zavala said. “We’re not hurting. And we don’t have a date where it would start to hurt, either. We can’t wait (for the move), but we’re not in a dire situation.”

“We’re not pushed,” project coordinator Freddie Smith said. “And what we’re trying to do is have enough equipment here that, when we do move, it’ll be a less painful move.”

GPLN provides services including disease monitoring and testing, chick quality assurance and hatchery inspections.

The state started several years planning to move from the aging Oakwood building. Officials settled on a 10-acre site off what is now known as Abit Massey Way — named after longtime poultry industry advocate Abit Massey — in the new 518-acre Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365, north of White Sulphur Road.

The $9.6 million lab is the park’s first occupant.

During a ground-breaking ceremony in May 2013, officials hailed the lab as a major advancement for the state’s booming poultry industry.

“This new laboratory will play a key role in protecting the jobs of tens of thousands of Georgians and in sustaining this state’s annual $28 billion poultry industry,” Gov. Nathan Deal said.

One of the building’s key features will be the mezzanine, where people — from industries to church and school groups — can tour the facility without entering infected areas.

An expected main attraction will be the serology lab, where robots will be used.

“We run about 900,000 serum samples per year and the only way to do that many in a precise and accurate fashion is to use robots,” Dufour-Zavala said. “Visitors can spend hours up (in the mezzanine) if they want and see them operate.”

The center also will have a biosafety lab, where dangerous biological agents, such as avian influenza, can be contained during an outbreak with the sealed room’s solid concrete walls.

Each lab also has a station where workers can immediately wash their faces in an emergency, Smith said.

Because of the highly specialized work, no ordinary contractor can be used for such a project.

“They have to understand all the working mechanisms within the lab, especially the air handling,” Smith said.

When the building is finished, it will be “commissioned” to make sure all systems are working, “before we move in,” Dufour-Zavala has said.


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