by Lisa Sorg
The NC Department of Commerce did not account for as much as $181.6 million in taxpayer costs for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, opponents of the lab said today. The department had originally predicted a $1.6 billion benefit to the state from the lab.
The original calculations did not include several essential figures, including those from the Department of Homeland Security's site cost analysis, which had been heavily redacted, said the Granville Non-Violent Action Team, which obtained additional details from N.C. Biotechnology Center documents (pdfs, Adobe Reader required):
Additional costs include $85 million to $102 million for site preparation, fencing, roads, and utility construction. The UNC System could allocate up to $5 million for faculty recruitment and retention and up to $35 million for program support. The proposed site at the state-owned Umstead Research Center in Butner would be virtually given away to the federal government for $1 an acre. The land has been appraised at nearly $12.5 million.
Homeland Security has shifted its figures during its selection process for the lab sites; five cities are in contention for the NBAF, including Butner. Originally, it the N.C. Consortium, a group of business, agriculture and academic leaders supporting the project, estimated there would be 1,000 to 1,500 temporary construction jobs generated by the lab; that number has been downsized to 612. Of the 250-300 jobs created by the NBAF, Homeland Security later revealed in its draft environmental impact statement that only 63 would go state residents.
Commerce Department spokesperson Kathy Neal declined to comment on GNAT's findings, adding only that "The analysis we did used the same information like any economic development budget."
Homeland Security is expected to release its final environmental impact statement within the next few weeks. It could announce the site selection by the end of the year.