North Carolina’s has offered to sell either of two proposed sites near Butner being considered for the proposed $451 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility for $1, according to a ‘confidential” Department of Homeland Security document obtained by the Associated Press.
The AP provided a copy of the information to WRAL.com. The state’s effort is being led by the N.C. Consortium for the NBAF, which includes N.C. State University’s Veterinary School and various public and private sector entities.
North Carolina’s overall offer was considered “an attractive site package,” according to the document.
The AP, in a story that broke early Monday, reported that the Homeland Security site review process listed Butner as No. 1 among five finalists with a score of “94”. The AP noted that the report was compiled in 2007 before opposition to the Butner site became widespread.
• Availability of research – 96 (excellent)
• Workforce – 93 (excellent)
• ACO (acquisition/construction/operations criteria) – 92 (excellent)
• Community acceptance – 95 (excellent)
• Weighted average rating – 94 (excellent)
Other finalists and their ratings are:
• San Antonio, Texas – 91
• Manhattan, Kansas – 91
• Athens, Ga. – 90
• Flora, Miss. – 81
Jay Cohen, an undersecretary at DHS, was quite praiseworthy of the Butner site in comments that were included within his site overview.
“I selected the site in Granville County, NC (Umstead Research Farm), submitted by the North Carolina Consortium for the NBAF, to go forward as a reasonable alternative …,” Cohen wrote. “A significant strength is the critical mass of intellectual and scientific capital, comprised of universities, the private sector, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, all within proximity to the site and that can be linked to NBAF mission requirements. Additionally, the consortium’s approach to community acceptance and its attractive site package would help to ensure the success of the NBAF mission.”
Cohen is playing a very active role in the lab site selection process, according to The AP report.
However, the project has become quite controversial in North Carolina. Numerous politicians and groups, including the City of Butner as well as Congressman Brad Miller, have voiced opposition to the project. Concerns about potential environmental impact created by an accident or incident at the lab have been expressed by numerous citizens, who have protested at public hearings put on by DHS.
On Friday, even the North Carolina coalition supporting the lab expressed concerns.
“The North Carolina Consortium for the National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility (NCC-NBAF) continues to evaluate its position following renewed expressions of concern relative to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” the group said in a statement.
“Many residents of south Granville County and the city of Raleigh have voiced concern about the potential siting of the facility near Butner, N.C. These concerns focus on the integrity of the Falls Lake region and the welfare of restricted populations at Umstead Hospital and the federal prison in Butner.
“The NCC-NBAF believes strongly that the NBAF program would help protect the U.S. livestock industry, enhance public health and bring significant economic benefit to the Granville County region. However, the consortium remains concerned by claims from citizens and elected officials that DHS has not adequately addressed their concerns. Members of the consortium are strong advocates for community involvement, government transparency and accountability. Wherever the NBAF program is located, it requires a strong, positive partnership between the host community and the responsible government entity.
“NCC-NBAF continues to urge DHS to address community concerns and the consortium will closely monitor the relationship between DHS and the constituent communities. The views of local citizens and guidance of elected officials will determine whether North Carolina will proceed with its bid.”
In the site overview written by Cohen, he noted that the NBAF coalition also “pledged State funded customized training for NBAF laboratory technicians and support workers” through the state Community College System.
North Carolina has often used training from Community Colleges as part of economic incentive packages designed to lure new or additional businesses to the state.
Cohen also praised the Research Triangle region for the presence of its universities and private sector.