Flora hosts public forum on proposed agro-defense lab

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A public forum is scheduled later this month so people can comment on the possibility of the federal government putting in Flora a $450 million national lab where killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied.

Supporters of the project, including Gov. Haley Barbour and members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation, say it would create at least 300 high-paying jobs.

The hearing on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will be held at 7-10 p.m. Aug. 30 the First Baptist Church Christian Life Center in Flora, a tiny town about 10 miles northwest of Jackson.

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“We’ll get people there in support of it,” Flora Mayor Scott Greaves said. “Most definitely, we’ll encourage people to come.”

Flora is one of five cities selected as finalists by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to become home to the 520,000-square-foot National Bio- and Agro-Defense Lab. The facility will work on a national strategy for research, development, test and evaluation for combating bio and agro terrorism threats.

The facility would address threats from human pathogens, “high consequence” diseases that can be transmitted from humans to animals and foreign animal diseases.

The hearing is part of the federal process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates each site alternative for the facility.

Sites that made the final cut are in San Antonio; Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; Madison County, Miss.; and Durham and Granville counties, N.C.

The Mississippi site is in the Flora Industrial Park, about 10 miles northwest of Jackson.

The facility will replace an aging, smaller lab at Plum Island, N.Y., where security lapses after the 2001 terrorist attacks drew scrutiny from Congress and government investigators.

Congress provided money for the $47 million design and architecture, but no money has been appropriated for construction or operations yet.

The winner should be announced next year, with the lab operating by 2014.