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Kan. Committee Considers Bonds for Biosecurity Lab

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 12:18pm
JOHN MILBURN,Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee introduced a bill on Thursday authorizing an additional $202 million in bonds to help finance construction of a federal biosecurity lab in Manhattan.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee scheduled a hearing later Thursday to hear from officials with Gov. Sam Brownback's administration about the funding request. The full Legislature reconvenes May 8 to wrap up the year's business and will debate the bonding request.

President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget includes $714 million to build the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University. The installation would replace an aging lab on Plum Island, N.Y. The lab will study animal diseases and develop measures to protect the nation's food supply.

The project's total cost is $1.15 billion. The land on the north edge of the Kansas State campus has been transferred to the Department of Homeland Security, and construction has begun on a stand-alone central utility plant that will provide service to the new lab.

Ron Trewyn, Kansas State's vice president for research, has said lab construction is expected to begin in May 2014, depending on Congress approving federal funds.

Kansas agreed when it was awarded the project to contribute 20 percent of the cost of construction. Thus far, the state has issued $105 million in bonds and $35 million from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

The 2014 budget that Kansas legislators have been negotiating doesn't include additional state support. However, because of the structuring of bonding issues, it is likely that the state wouldn't begin repaying the debt for several years, but still needs legislative approval for the bonds to be sold.

The entire complex will be adjacent to Kansas State's Biosecurity Research Institute, which already conducts research on deadly plant and animal diseases that are of a lesser threat than the diseases contemplated to be researched in the federal labs. Officials have contemplated transferring some of the research ongoing at Plum Island to the existing lab in coming years.

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