GBI cutting lab services due to budget

ATLANTA - Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime labs are feeling the pinch because of state budget cuts mandated by Gov. Sonny Perdue.


The GBI has to cut its budget by 6 percent along with other state agencies under Perdue's directive, due to sharp revenue shortages in a slowing national economy.

Medical examiner offices in Summerville and Moultrie have been eliminated in a slice of about $4.2 million in the GBI budget this fiscal year, agency spokesman John Bankhead said.

Another $4.1 million reduction is projected for 2010, which starts July 1, 2009.

If the 6 percent reductions continue, the current plan is to close the Moultrie lab altogether next year, along with the forensics lab in Columbus, Bankhead said.

Some employees can transfer to the crime lab in Atlanta, and others will be laid off, he said.

"We have told the staff that their jobs are being reassigned to Atlanta," GBI Director Vernon Keenan said. "The backlog's going to increase. You cannot cut a budget without cutting staff."

Regional crime labs will remain in Macon, Augusta, Savannah, Cleveland and Summerville.

The facilities in Macon, Savannah, Augusta, Summerville and Mountrie all have operated forensic labs and medical examiner offices. Columbus and Cleveland provide just forensic services.

Bankhead said Moultrie has not had a medical examiner for 18 months, and Summerville has been without one since July 1, when the pathologist left for another job out of state.

"We've done what all the other agencies have done in regards to a hiring freeze, no purchase of vehicles, and limited travel," he said.

"Part of the current cuts we had to make was to eliminate the medical examiner operation out of the regional lab in Summerville. That will be transfered to Atlanta," Bankhead said.

Of five employees with the office, three were offered transfers to Atlanta, he said.

Another cut comes in a security contract for GBI offices with the private agency Wackenhut. That saves $331,000 this year and would total $441,000 in 2010, Bankhead said.

Security details will be handled by agents.

"It's a very bad expenditure of resources, but the alternative is for them to lose their jobs," Keenan said.

The agency projects savings of another $638,000 this year through cuts in personnel inputting criminal history data into a computer system.



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