Rocky Hill lab funding approved

Connecticut's State Bond Commission has approved the proposed $70 million Rocky Hill public health laboratory despite public outcry from the future lab's neighbors.

The commission, which had previously failed to approve the lab in a five to five vote last month that saw all five commission Democrats vote no, granted approval on Wednesday with a seven to three vote.

Anthrax and other biohazardous materials will be tested at the state-of-the-art facility, which will replace a deteriorating, 45-year-old lab in Hartford. Neighbors of the proposed new lab had raised fears about the testing, though proponents of the lab noted that the current lab is within walking distance of the state Capitol, the Bushnell theater, the state office building on Capitol Ave., and Bushnell Park.

Republic Gov M. Jodi Rell has said that many of the negative fears about the lab stem from a union battle over the potential use of non-union contractors to build the complex.

Recommendations have been made for more than 30 different contractors for the lab, including almost one dozen contracts worth at least $1 million.

Shaun Cashman, a high-ranking union official and former state labor commissioner under former Gov. John G. Rowland, is one of the main opponents of the lab. Cashman appeared at a private meeting on about the lab with Democratic Sens. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield and Tony Guerrera of Rocky Hill and attended the Wednesday bond commission meeting. According to the Hartford Courant, Cashman "often looked back at Doyle and Guerrera, who were standing in the back of the room" during Wednesday's meeting.