The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will contract with a private fuel testing laboratory to test motor fuel samples and will shut down its motor fuel and pesticide testing lab in Frankfort, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced today.
“We will save the taxpayers as much as $600,000 after we finish decommissioning this facility,” Commissioner Comer said. “We will continue to test motor fuel samples at random and respond to consumer complaints. Kentucky consumers will not be affected by this action.”
The department will hire Core Laboratories of Deer Park, Texas, to perform its motor fuel testing at a cost of $330,000 per year.
Comer eliminated all but one of the positions at the fuel lab. Three of the employees whose positions were eliminated were retrained and reassigned. The supervisory chemist will stay with the department in another capacity. Most of the equipment and inventory at the lab will be sold as surplus, Comer said.
The KDA fuel lab was completed in 2008 at a cost of $3.1 million. It was believed that the lab would attract out-of-state business that would make it self-sufficient; a sweeping audit of the department conducted last year at Commissioner Comer’s request found that the lab cost the state $900,000 a year to operate.
“We were spending a lot of tax dollars for very, very little benefit,” Commissioner Comer said. “There never was a business plan that would make the lab viable.”
Comer appointed a task force in July 2012 to examine the lab’s operations. The task force, made up of business leaders in various fields, was unable to devise a strategy that would have enabled the lab to break even.
Comer said the department is in talks with the University of Kentucky about testing fuel samples at its Center for Applied Energy Research.