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Butner Being Considered for Research Lab

A Granville County town could become ground zero for research to fight potential bioterrorism threats.

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BUTNER, N.C. — The quiet community of Butner has caught the eye of the federal government. Some think the Granville County town's proximity to top universities, RDU International and Research Triangle Park make it the perfect location for a high-level research lab.

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility would sit on the Umstead Research Farm area. Scientists would study deadly diseases like ebola and anthrax.

"Anytime you have a situation with lethal agents, there are issues and questions about how it's handled and how it's transported through our area," said Jim Warren, of the watchdog group N.C. Warn.

Critics have argued this type of research lab would require the highest level of security, but proponents said they have already got enough safeguards in place.

"We have a very high-end police and public safety department here," said county commissioner Ron Alligood. "We have the National Guard training facility here. We've got military personnel and law enforcement in and out every week from everywhere."

Alligood said he is not worried about securing the $450 million research lab. Butner, a state-run town, is already home to 16 state and federal institutions.

"We look at it more or less as another institution with jobs. These are high-end jobs,"  he said.

The lab could provide 500 new jobs and generate $6 billion into the economy over the next 20 years. Butner is one of 17 sites being considered. Officials are expected to come up with a short list in June and they are not expected to pick a site until 2008.



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