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Poultry lab back on track after weather delays

Rainy summer put $13.7 million project off Ga. 365 behind schedule

POSTED: September 13, 2013 11:29 p.m.

Summer rain killed 27 days of construction time on the new Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network headquarters building in North Hall, but the project is otherwise mostly on track, officials said.

The past couple weeks of mostly sunny, dry weather has helped the contractor, Manhattan Construction, pick up the pace.

And sandy soil at the site in the Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 helps “digest” the water table, said GPLN project coordinator Freddie Smith.

So, while bad weather “has hampered them to do some things, the site has maintained pretty good integrity throughout,” he said. “Manhattan has done a great job of doing things they could do and laying off things they shouldn’t do.

“Even though we’re a little bit behind in schedule, I think (that with) this stretch of dry weather, by Friday we may be within a day of (being on) schedule, which I think is great.”

The completion date remains June 4. Poultry lab officials expect to move into new quarters in July or August, Smith said.

The lab has operated for about 50 years in an aging — and now partially condemned — building off Oakwood Road in Oakwood, providing diagnostic and monitoring services to the poultry industry and private poultry owners, as well as performing other tasks.

“We’re looking at how critical the repairs are and just skipping them if they’re not absolutely essential, which is kind of tough because the building is falling apart,” said the lab’s executive director, Louise Dufour-Zavala.

In May, area and state officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal, gathered for a ceremony marking the start of the $13.7 million project. The 39,000-square-feet building is on a 10-acre site in the 518-acre industrial park north of White Sulphur Road.

“The health of poultry flocks across Georgia has a critical importance,” Deal said at the time. “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.”

The lab will be the first occupant in the industrial park, where Hall County has committed to $10 million in improvements, including water, sewer, storm systems and roadways.

“With this facility, we’ll have the best lab network on the face of this globe,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has said.

A concrete foundation has been poured, an asphalt base has been laid for the entrance and parking lot off Abit Massey Way, and steel beams are giving shape to the eventual structure.

One of the building’s key features will be a mezzanine, where people can tour the facility without entering infected areas.

“To see this building come on track for the growers and the economy of the state of Georgia is just beyond words,” Smith said during a tour of the site Monday morning. “When you look at the farmer out here every day in the heat doing his job and to have a place like this where he can bring his birds ... this is just wonderful.”

He also gave kudos for the project to Deal’s office and the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission.

“And then you think of the magnitude of the poultry industry in Georgia and what this building means to us for the next 100 years,” Smith said.


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