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$25 million could go to NBAF

Keeping up with the Georgias

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North Carolina taxpayers could chip in $25 million for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, a federal disease research lab proposed for Butner.

State Rep. Jim Crawford, a Democrat representing Granville and Vance counties, says officials from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, which is a member of the state consortium lobbying to bring the facility to the area, asked him to introduce a bill that would appropriate $25 million to the NBAF.

"I don't know if I'll introduce it yet or not," Crawford says, cautioning the proposed legislation hasn't been written. "It's a little premature."

The General Assembly convenes May 13.

Mike Wilkins, senior vice president of statewide operations and economic development at the N.C. Biotechnology Center, acknowledges he spoke with Crawford about funding for the project's infrastructure, such as water, sewer and roads.

Wilkins is a former three-term legislator and senior policy adviser to House Speaker Joe Hackney.

Asked where the $25 million amount came from, Wilkins says "it's just a figure."

Georgia, one of the five other sites competing for NBAF, has also offered to kick in $25 million for the project if it is sited there.

Ken Tindall, senior vice president of science and development at the center, says the proposed bill would "attempt to cover appropriate things for states to cover. We don't like to think about writing a blank check to the Department of Homeland Security.

"I think it's an appropriate, reasonable figure," he adds. "And what North Carolina might be able to provide."

Judy Winters, a member of the Granville Nonviolent Action Team, which opposes the NBAF, calls the funds "an installment."

"Our collective thought is that they're ponying up the $25 million to stay in line, but there will be much more to follow," she says, adding, "North Carolina could use the money in so many other ways."

Kansas and Texas have offered to pitch in upward of $100 million.

Last month, Barrett Slenning, a leading member of the N.C. Consortium who represents the agriculture industry, said there would be no state subsidies for the $450 million federal project. Homeland Security has sought state help in paying for a utility hub that is required as part of the NBAF.

DHS is scheduled to issue a draft environmental statement this month that would detail several issues, including infrastructure needs and potential environmental impacts of the project.

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