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File #: 2021-1475   
Type: Consent Calendar Item Status: Passed
File created: 1/25/2022 In control: General Services
On agenda: 1/25/2022 Final action: 1/25/2022
Title: Potential New Public Health Lab and Morgue Preliminary Planning Measures
Department or Agency Name(s): General Services, Health Services, Sheriff's Office
Attachments: 1. Summary Report.pdf, 2. 1-ARPA Departmental Request Form.pdf, 3. 2-Coroner Bureau Business Plan.pdf, 4. 3-Public Health Lab Business Plan.pdf, 5. 4-Preliminary Design Budget-Total Estimated Budget.pdf, 6. 5-Budget Resolution.pdf, 7. 6-Potential Combined Morgue Public Health Lab Locations.pdf

To: Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Department or Agency Name(s): General Services, Department of Health Services, Sheriff’s Office

Staff Name and Phone Number: : Mark DeBacker (General Services) 707.565.3915; Heidi Keith (Sheriff’s Office) 707.565.2812; Doug Uyehura (DHS Facilities) 707.565.5162; Rachel Rees (DHS-Public Health Lab Director) 707.565.4712

Vote Requirement: 4/5th

Supervisorial District(s): Third




Potential New Public Health Lab and Morgue Preliminary Planning Measures



Recommended Action:

Recommended action

A)                     Approve consultant contract to produce preliminary design documents for subsequent Design-Build RFP.

B)                     Adopt budget resolution to transfer $183,000 in previously Board-approved ARPA funding for new Public Health Lab and Morgue preliminary design scope of work (4/5th Vote).

C)                     Direct staff to continue further Public Health Lab and Morgue site analysis and initiate preliminary environmental review on the identified potential sites, and to return to the Board with potential site recommendations.

D)                     Accept report on initial business plans for a proposed Public Health Lab and Morgue.

(4/5th Vote Required) (Third District)



Executive Summary:

New Public Health Lab and Morgue facilities are recommended to replace the existing buildings located on the Chanate campus. The Board approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding on December 14, 2021, to facilitate replacement of these essential facilities. A new, combined Public Health Lab and Morgue facility is recommended. In order to  move forward with a timely relocation, given the completed Chanate property sale, and in order to meet ARPA funding requirements, staff recommends the Board authorize issuance of a task order under one of the County’s existing architectural master services contracts. The selected architectural firm will work with the County team (General Services, the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Health Services) to identify program requirements, evaluate potential sites, and develop a preliminary design. The intent is to develop a 30% initial and preliminary design that foremost will be used for further initial study and site analysis, and may be used later for the potential new project. Under the existing architectural master services contracts, Board approval of the task order is required given the estimated cost of this work.



The County Health Services Department, Public Health (PH) Lab and the Sheriff’s Office Morgue currently located on the Chanate campus serve multiple jurisdictions, and have sub-optimal size, ventilation, and electrical capacities. The deficiencies in the existing facilities were described in the General Services Department request for ARPA funding (see attached). The sale of the Chanate campus included a requirement that the new owner lease back the existing facilities to the County for four years effective upon the sale Closing on December 23, 2021 to allow sufficient time for the County to identify a new location and design and construct new facilities. On December 14, 2021, the Board approved ARPA funding to enable staff to move forward with preliminary efforts for a new joint facility. 


Staff recommends consolidating the two facilities in order to achieve design, construction, and operational efficiencies. The PH Lab and Morgue both are considered essential facilities and must be constructed to a higher building code standard. The functions share similar heating, ventilation, air condition, electrical systems, chain of custody, security, and other needs that influence design and construction. If PH Lab and Morgue functions are combined, a facility totaling approximately 23,000 square feet would be needed. There is precedence for combining these facilities, as recently demonstrated by Alameda County with the Peralta Oaks facility, which combines the Sheriff’s Criminalistics Lab, Morgue, and the Public Health Lab in one facility. As experienced in Alameda County, the benefits of a combined facility with separately-designed operational spaces include the potential for shared scientific experiences and learning.


General Services recommends accelerated development of this project to address operational shortfalls with the existing facilities and to mitigate Chanate lease expenses. Accelerated development includes: identifying preliminary design program requirements, initiating environmental analysis (CEQA) to evaluate potential sites and form recommendations for subsequent Board action, and developing a 30% design (Bridging Documents). The County has previously conducted a competitive solicitation for as-needed architectural and other technical services. These “Master Service” contracts allow the General Services Department the ability to rapidly execute task orders to perform design on approved capital projects. Task orders that exceed $100,000 require Board approval.


In addition to Sonoma County, the PH Lab and Morgue serve Lake, Mendocino and Humboldt counties under County agreements with those jurisdictions.   Business plans for both facilities are described in attachments. The Lab provides fundamentally crucial human and environmental testing. In addition to COVID-19, the Lab tests and monitors a wide range of communicable diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, whooping cough, sexually transmitted infections, and measles.  Environmental services include testing local drinking water, river and ocean beaches, and farmed shellfish for fecal contamination; rabies testing; and testing ticks for Lyme disease.  The Lab facilitates the interaction between the health care community and state and federal agencies for unusual and exotic diseases, and provides training and reference testing to local clinical laboratories. The Lab plays a key role in public safety by providing infectious disease data for local health policy planning, and emergency testing support to first responders and Northern California clinical laboratories. The Lab is one of 4 laboratories in California that perform shellfish testing; one of California’s 14 CDC Laboratory Response Network-biological (LRN-B) labs; and the only local lab that performs dairy testing. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Morgue served an annual case load of 3762 autopsies in FY 18-19. As described in the attached “GS ARPA Departmental Request Form,” caseloads and demands have increased through COVID. 

With the sale of the Chanate campus, relocation of the PH Lab and Morgue is a top priority, since the County currently only has rights to maintain the facilities in-place pursuant to the Chanate sale four-year leaseback arrangement.


In consultation with the Sheriff’s Office and Public Health, General Service’s staff began preliminary investigation of 13 sites including, multiple sites on the County Administration Campus, other County-owned properties, and leased alternatives. Preferred sites were identified based upon site size, public access, site security, sufficient parking for specialized vehicles, and other considerations. A summary of the sites considered is attached. With regard to eventual site location, staff will continue to develop those options that are best suited for the use and will return to your Board with appropriate recommendations. Preliminary analysis favors site location on the existing County Administration campus or other County-owned property. This is in part based on a survey of lease facilities available on the market and staff’s conclusion that the costs of tenant improvements for the specialized laboratory functions and the essential facilities building code standards would be cost prohibitive. Further design and site analysis work is necessary to develop basic project characteristics and other information to more meaningfully evaluate the potential locations and the proposed development and use. Any site recommendation and selection will include all required environmental analysis, including as required under CEQA.


Next Steps

Approval of the bridging design task order will enable staff to expeditiously proceed with developing key project options, developing better understanding of location considerations and needs, and prepare for a future design-build solicitation. Should initial planning and design progress and full project funding materialize, staff will return to the Board in the future for site selection, any required CEQA actions, and for approval of the design-build solicitation as appropriate.


Strategic Plan:

This item directly supports the County’s Five-year Strategic Plan and is aligned with the following pillar, goal, and objective.


Pillar: Resilient Infrastructure

Goal 1: Invest in County buildings and technology to enhance service delivery and improve employee mobility

Objective 1: Design the new County Center to be carbon neutral and zero waste; and pursue carbon reduction and zero waste plans for remaining County facilities.

Goal 2: Invest in capital systems to ensure continuity of operations and disaster response.

Objective 1: Strengthen critical communications infrastructure, interoperability, and information technology tools relied upon during disasters.

Department Lead for these Objectives: General Services Department


Prior Board Actions:

FY2021-22 Adopted Budget includes funding for new PHL/Morgue Bridging Documents.


Fiscal Summary


FY 21-22 Adopted

FY 22-23 Projected

FY 23-24 Projected

Budgeted Expenses




Additional Appropriation Requested




Total Expenditures




Funding Sources




General Fund/WA GF












Use of Fund Balance  (ARPA)








Total Sources





Narrative Explanation of Fiscal Impacts:

The Board approved ARPA funding of $8,000,000 on December 14, 2021 to put towards the  design and construction of the new Public Health Lab and Morgue facilities. On December 29, 2021, DHS was awarded an additional $1,167,240 of ARPA funding through the California Department of Public Health for major equipment and new construction of a public health laboratory. Staff have attached a budget for the preliminary design phase and total anticipated project budget. Preliminary design expenses are expected to cost $383,000 and include: GSD capital project management, County Counsel reimbursement, and preliminary design consulting (architectural) services. The FY 22-23 funding listed in the table above is for subsequent completion of design documents and potential permitting, with construction expected to occur in FY 23-24.  Funding requests for completion of design documents and construction will come to the Board separately in the future for review and approval. 


Staffing Impacts:  None.




Position Title (Payroll Classification)

Monthly Salary Range (A-I Step)

Additions (Number)

Deletions (Number)














Narrative Explanation of Staffing Impacts (If Required):




1 - ARPA Departmental Request Form

2 - Coroner Bureau Business Plan

3 - Public Health Laboratory Business Plan

4 - Preliminary Design Budget and Total Estimated Project Budget

5 - Budget Resolution

6 - Potential Combined Morgue Public Health Lab Locations


Related Items “On File” with the Clerk of the Board:

FY2021-22 Supplemental Adjustments, Exhibit C.