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Ball gets rolling for new EPA labs, offices in Las Vegas

WASHINGTON — A $7.85 million advance from Congress will get the ball rolling on moving the Environmental Protection Agency’s Las Vegas labs and offices into new quarters at the Harry Reid UNLV Technology and Research Park, according to the U.S. senator whose name is on the sign.

The EPA has not announced its planned site for a move. Officials at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas say the EPA and the General Services Administration, the government leasing agency, have been weighing the largely vacant, school-affiliated 122-acre site on Sunset Road and Durango Boulevard.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an interview it is understood the EPA will become an anchor tenant in the desert parcel he arranged for UNLV to obtain from the government in 2005. University regents in turn named the park for Reid.

“We’ve been trying to get that for 15 years,” Reid said of upgraded facilities for the agency’s Environmental Sciences Division that have been housed at UNLV since 1966.

In addition to occupying five buildings on campus, an EPA human resources office, financial center, civil rights office, its National Center for Radiation Field Operations and its Environmental Response Team-West lease space in La Plaza Business Park at 4220 Maryland Parkway, across from the university.

The EPA’s budget request earlier this year envisioned moving roughly 580 employees to a new $120 million complex. Funding to design the laboratories and administrative offices was placed in the year-end, government-wide spending bill that Congress completed late Saturday.

The EPA said in a statement Tuesday that site selection will be finalized as part of the initial designs in the coming year, and a construction schedule will be announced at that point.

Reid said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over EPA spending, put Las Vegas money into the final bill at the Nevadan’s request. The House declined to fund the project this year.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a former UNLV political science professor, said the EPA relocation “has been in the making for years.”

“This is a win-win situation for the EPA and UNLV,” Titus said. “It will allow the EPA to save money and consolidate its facilities while opening buildings in the heart of campus to new student use.”

The matter took on some urgency as the EPA’s lease on the campus buildings expires at the end of September, and the university wanted them back for the school year.

The school and the agency are nearing an agreement that would extend the EPA’s lease for another three years, with an option to add two more years, according to Gerry Bomotti, UNLV senior vice president for finance and business. The EPA would consolidate its campus facilities and return two buildings to the school and part of a third, he said.

Bomotti described the arrangement as a “transition plan” that could be finalized in January on the idea the EPA would be moving to the technology park, though nothing has been signed.

“It’s not 100 percent security, but having some increased security, the EPA is going to have resources to plan and eventually move ahead with the new facility is all very positive,” Bomotti said.

“Certainly in all our discussions with them we have made it clear the research park is where we think they should be and we want to work with them to accommodate their needs out there,” Bomotti said.

Bomotti said he was not aware whether EPA is considering other sites.

“We are considering all options and are committed to finding the most cost-effective solution,”said Christie St. Clair, an EPA spokeswoman.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.

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