Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NBAF bond issue would cost $164M

Taxpayers would fund infrastructure improvements if Kansas site chosen

March 19, 2008

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— Kansas taxpayers will pay $164 million to land a federal biosecurity lab under a measure that was rocketing Tuesday through the Legislature.

"I can't emphasize enough how important this is," said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius also signed on to Senate Bill 688.

The Legislature will consider a $105 million bond issue for infrastructure improvements for a proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

Paid off over 20 years, the bonds would cost about $8.2 million annually, or $164 million total in principal, interest and fees, officials said.

Kansas is one of six states vying for the $451 million U.S. Department of Homeland Security lab used to research plant, animal and human diseases. The NBAF will focus on combating potential bioterrorist threats to the food supply.

Recently, Homeland Security estimated Kansas' costs would total $105 million for land, roads, grading, parking, security fencing and a utility plant. The utility plant would provide electricity, steam, chilled water and backup power to the facility, planned at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Tom Thornton, president of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, said NBAF will have a $1.5 billion economic impact over 20 years, providing 1,000 to 1,500 construction jobs and 250 to 350 permanent jobs.

"This is a key moment," he said.

Legislation allowing the bonds has been put on the fast track, gaining approval Tuesday of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The Senate is expected to debate it today.

In October, Homeland Security is scheduled to pick a site. Other contenders are Athens, Ga.; San Antonio; Granville County, N.C.; Madison County, Miss.; and an existing lab at Plum Island, N.Y.

If Kansas is not selected, bonds would not be issued, officials said.

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