More than 100 community members, municipal officials and public safety officials from Anoka, Wright and Sherburne counties attended a groundbreaking Thursday morning for the new Anoka County Sheriff's Office and Regional Forensics Lab.

"It was exciting, to say the least," said Anoka County Sheriff Bruce Andersohn, adding that the public safety center in Andover had been in the works for almost a decade. "So, to finally see us put a shovel in the ground and move the project forward is just as exciting as you could possibly get."

The 135,000-square-foot building at 1333 Hanson Blvd. NW, near the border with Coon Rapids, will have a more centrally located Anoka County Public Safety Center, and a regional crime lab that will include facilities for fingerprint and DNA analysis, drug testing and more.

The lab also will be a satellite classroom for Hamline University students.

County Commissioner Scott LeDoux noted that the lab will not only facilitate investigations for the benefit of victims, but also for the benefit of crime suspects, speeding along DNA and fingerprint analysis.

The county received $3 million of a $6 million state bonding request from the Legislature this year; the remaining $24 million for the project will come from Anoka County capital improvement funds. Sherburne and Wright counties will contribute to the forensics lab's operating costs.

The building is expected to open in fall 2009.