- Associated Press - Monday, January 1, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s top law enforcement agency says it needs a new $54 million crime lab, but there are disagreements among lawmakers on how to pay for it.

The State Law Enforcement Division needs more space to do DNA testing, agency chief Mark Keel said.

The quality of the tests isn’t affected, but SLED can’t do them as fast - and solve crime as quick - without more room. There was no DNA testing when the building was built in 1990, but it now takes up 2 ½ floors, Keel said.

“We’ve taken every closest, every canteen, every spot we can use. We’ve remodeled and tried to reuse space, but we’re at our limits now. There’s nowhere to spread out,” Keel told The Charleston Post and Courier .

The lab needs a better cooling system as well. Currently, SLED has to shut down computers sometimes in the summer to prevent the lab from overheating and damaging the DNA tests, Keel said.

Lawmakers agree SLED needs the new lab, but disagree on how to pay for it. Some want to borrow the money to assure the lab is built as soon as possible

SLED’s lab is one of the most important and vital pieces of the puzzle, and I don’t see a way to fund it other than a bond bill,” said Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, a retired law enforcement officer and chairman of a panel that writes the budgets for law enforcement agencies.

But Senate Republicans and the governor aren’t sure a bond bill is the way to go and they worry the state already has enough debt. They would rather find the $54 million elsewhere in the budget.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com


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