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Kansas Officials Break Ground On NBAF Project

Tue, 05/28/2013 - 1:36pm
John Milburn, Associated Press

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas and federal officials said Tuesday they were pleased with a congressional budget committee's recommendation to include $404 million in the next federal budget for the new biodefense lab in Manhattan.

The markup of the spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security is less than the $714 million that President Barack Obama recommended for funding construction of the $1.2 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility adjacent to Kansas State University.

"The president has more than committed to this process, which is a good sign," said Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose district used to include the Kansas State campus.

The lab, slated to conduct research on dangerous animal diseases, will replace an aging facility on Plum Island, N.Y. State officials expect the lab to create more than 300 new jobs averaging more than $75,000 in salary and benefits.

Ground was broken Tuesday under cloudy skies on the lab's central utility plant, which will provide a self-contained power supply to the lab. Jamie Johnson, director of national labs for DHS, said the construction on the research lab should begin in 2014.

Johnson said the $404 million appropriation, which still must go through the full House and a similar process in the U.S. Senate, would be sufficient funding to sign contracts and begin construction. The funding would be coupled with $202 million in new bonding authority from the Kansas Legislature.

State officials are yet to act on the additional bonds, which would raise the total state effort to $307 million in bonds and $35 million from the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The initial $105 million bonding are being used to construct the utility plant.

"If we get the same amount in the (U.S.) Senate it will be a major victory," said Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican who began speaking of the need for the new lab more than a decade ago.

Kansas was awarded the project in 2009 but federal funding for the lab has lagged over concerns about the security of the facility and the event of an accidental release of a deadly pathogen, either by natural disaster, human error or act of terrorism.

The cost of the project has escalated with inclusion of additional security measures, including adding more concrete to the structure.

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