Citizen raises concern for NBAF development at City Commission meeting

The Manhattan City Commission meeting on Tuesday evening focused on concerns raised by Gary Conrad, K-State professor of biology, over the planned installment of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility site. Conrad stressed the fact that he spoke as a private citizen and not as a representative of K-State.

Conrad pleaded with commission to put an end to the NBAF installation. 

“I am not against the whole concept of a NBAF laboratory; if there has to be one, however, I think this is the worst possible place to site it,” Conrad said. “I think it should remain where it has been: on Plum Island in New York.”  

Conrad pointed out how easily the viral hoof-and-mouth disease could spread if released. He emphasized to the commission that the consequences of the release of the virus into cattle country would be “severe.”

“The National Academy of Sciences and many other groups have examined the likelihood that there could be an accidental release of any kind of organism, particularly that one [hoof-and-mouth disease] from this laboratory,” Conrad said.  

Conrad explained that if such a virus were accidentally released, it could mean the end of the beef industry in the U.S. He said that 99 percent of farmers would lose everything.

In response, Mayor Pepperd explained that the NBAF site has been under discussion by the commission for over four years. Manhattan was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security out of four other states to hold the site and has passed different levels of clearance.

“We have had numerous studies done on safety. We have had numerous meetings. We have had three different academy boards review it,” Pepperd said.

Pepperd also made it clear that the land is not owned by the city, but by the university.

“The reason we have to provide the signatures for this is because we have control of the infrastructure — the sewer, the streets, and the electricity,” Pepperd said. ”They are going to have to build a separate septic sewer plant to refine all of their sewage prior to it being released into our sewer system.” 

Pepperd also stressed that the commission only represented the city’s agreement that NBAF would use the city’s infrastructure, stating that placing NBAF on university grounds is not the commission’s decision to make. 

At the meeting, commissioner James E. Sherow also announced that he will not be seeking re-election. 

“It is enough knowing that I have played a role, as elected men and women have before me in continuing the work of improving the lives of people living in in our terrific city,” said Sherow, who is also a professor of history at K-State. “I have done the best to serve the needs of this community for six years come this April, and now it is time for me to step aside and for others to have the privilege that I have so enjoyed.”

The commission also gave thanks for the service of Manhattan City Attorney Katherine Jackson, as last night was her last commission meeting serving as city attorney.