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Consular Center in Goldbug evacuated after suspicious packages received

Above, a hazardous materials truck is parked outside the Consular Center during the evacuation Tuesday.

The Kentucky Consular Center at Goldbug was evacuated Tuesday morning and three workers had to be decontaminated after the arrival of two suspicious packages in the mail.

Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said that authorities don't think the two packages were connected to a planned visit by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell at the facility, which was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

"We don't think the packages had anything to do with Senator McConnell. We don't think that at all," Bird said. "We think the arrival of the packages and the senator being here at this point is just coincidental. Because of the incident, he has been diverted."

About 9:30 a.m., Bird received a call from the head of security at the Kentucky Consular Center advising him that they had received a suspicious package. At that point a standard protocol system to handle such incidents was activated.

About 15 to 20 minutes later, Bird received another call from a security supervisor at the Kentucky Consular Center notifying him that a second suspicious package had been discovered.

"The only thing I can tell you about the packages are that they were opened in the mail room," Bird said. "There is an unknown substance in both packages. Hazmat is on scene. The FBI is here. A Kentucky State Police destructive device team is here as well."

Bird said that he doesn't know what alerted authorities that the packages were suspicious other than they were opened and there was a substance inside.

The building was evacuated as a precautionary measure. The three workers in the mailroom have been decontaminated, were medically cleared and have left the scene.

About noon, Bird said that a hazardous materials team was in the process of entering the building to do a preliminary assessment of the substance found in the suspicious packages.

"They will take some test samples. They will do some preliminary testing here on site and then they will do some final testing in Frankfort. They should know in six to eight hours," Bird said.

Bird said that the only thing he could say about the packages is that both arrived via the U.S. Postal Service.

He didn't know where the packages came from but said the facility receives packages from around the world.

Authorities believe that the two suspicious packages are connected but Bird couldn't comment about why police believe that the packages are connected.

The facility operates using a first and second shift and will be closed for the remainder of the day.

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader and highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, is touring Southeastern Kentucky today and had scheduled stops in Somerset and Stearns this morning.

McConnell was scheduled to arrive in Whitley County this afternoon for a meeting at Williamsburg City Hall and from there he was scheduled to visit the Kentucky Consular Center before going to a public reception at the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport at 4 p.m. During the reception, he is expected to meet and greet constituents and give an update on Washington and comments on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.

On Oct. 25, 2000, the Kentucky Consular Center opened in the old Lion Apparel building at Goldbug as a centralized processing facility to provide operational support to the Diversity Immigrant Visa program.  The petition-based program allows people to enter the United States legally through Visas.

The Kentucky Consular Center also has evolved to handle other operations, such as running a leading edge facial recognition program on visa applicants. In 2010, it expanded to all applicants for U.S. passports. Overall, more than 12 million facial recognition screenings are run each year at the facility.

During the 2010 fiscal year, the facility reviewed 10,696,397 non-immigrant visas and over one million passports using facial recognition software.

The Kentucky Consular Center had 10 government employees and nearly 300 contract workers from all over the region when it celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2010.

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