Local News

Granville Commissioners Pull Support of Bioterror Lab

Posted January 8, 2008 6:32 p.m. EST

— The Granville County Board of Commissioners has withdrawn its support for an effort to locate a federal bioterrorism lab in Butner.

Butner is one of five sites that has been under consideration for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility, which would study animal diseases or diseases spread from animals to humans, such as bird flu or foot-and-mouth disease. Part of the Umstead Research Farm would be used for $450 million lab, which officials said would create 350 to 450 jobs and generate a $1.65 billion impact on the local economy.

Some local residents have fought the proposal since Butner was named a finalist for the lab several months ago. Raleigh officials raised questions about the lab last month, noting the facility would be near the headwaters of Falls Lake, which serves as Raleigh's primary reservoir.

"It really doesn't offer this area anything but a scare," said Fred Adams, of Trust Worthy Hardware in Butner.

Community members said federal officials haven't addressed their concerns about the project. When Granville County officials asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a contact person, for example, they were referred to the department's Web site.

"Homeland Security is not talking to people, not answering their questions," local resident John Monroe said.

Dr. Warwick Arden, dean of North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said the project has been misrepresented by a small group of people. He said the lab would be a safe and secure facility.

"It is a diagnostic and a research facility designed to protect animal, agriculture and public health," Arden said.

But County Commissioner Hubert Gooch said mounting opposition to the proposed lab was enough to prompt county officials to  pull their support for it this week.

"I'm elected to represent the people of the county. If they feel that strongly about it, I don't want to force it on them if they don't want it here," Gooch said.

Mississippi, Texas, Kansas and Georgia are are being considered for the lab. Federal officials are expected to take public opinion into consideration when making their decision, which should come in the fall.