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Displaced USDA employees find new spaces after Geneva fire

A fire that destroyed a greenhouse complex and damaged an office/lab building early Saturday evening hasn’t stopped displaced employees with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service from doing their jobs.

“Everyone is back to work, and fewer than 10 people are working temporarily in buildings that are nearby on the Geneva campus,” said Dennis O’Brien, a spokesperson for the service.

He said some employees will be working in other buildings temporarily, but there are no plans to construct temporary structures.

O’Brien said the damaged building on Collier Drive on the Cornell AgriTech campus is primarily used by the Plant Genetic Resources Unit, but is also used by the other Geneva operation, the Grape Genetics Research Unit.

A USDA building next door to the greenhouse struck by fire is used by the same two units, but primarily houses the Plant Genetic Resources Unit.

“It is also used to some extent by the Grape Genetics Research Unit,” he said, adding that the unit’s primary operations are in Cornell AgriTech’s Barton Hall.

O’Brien acknowledged Cornell AgriTech’s support in the aftermath of the fire.

O’Brien called Cornell “a tremendous partner to ARS in Geneva and (that it) is generously offering its support and assistance as we move forward.”

Earlier this year the USDA announced, in conjunction with Sen. Chuck Schumer, that the agency was planning to spend $68.9 million for a new laboratory on the Cornell AgriTech campus for the Grape Genetics Research Unit.

O’Brien didn’t know if both units would be in the new facility.

“Specific plans for the new grapevine research center in Geneva are still being developed,” he said.

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