Manhattan residents discuss NBAF, redevelopment progress at meeting


    City commissioners discussed K-State’s role as a finalist in the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and downtown redevelopment progress Sunday night in the town hall meeting at Headquarters Fire Station on Denison Avenue. 
    One major topic raised was K-State’s status as one of five finalists in a nationwide competition to house the NBAF, a national defense laboratory proposed by the Department of Homeland Security.
     Commissioners said they supported the idea of the NBAF, while members of the public disagreed.
    Mayor Mark Hatesol said that, as a dominantly agricultural town, Manhattan would be an ideal location for this research facility.     
    William Richter, a Manhattan resident, said the risk of pathogens escaping from the facility is too great and that federal legislation against Biosafety Level 4 research on the mainland should be heeded. 
    “An island is better for this kind of research to take place,” said Gary Conrad, a biology professor at K-State, “not cattle country surrounded by farmland.”
    If dangerous pathogens do escape from the research facility, foot and mouth disease could result, and a number of animals could be killed, areas quarantined, lime disease spread, and human life threatened, he said. 
    In response to the campaign against NBAF, city commissioner Bruce Snead said, “It’s a risky project, but I feel our city has the proper training, infrastructure, and leadership to deal with these issues if they arise, and the project can be safely built and operated.” 
    The project is still under debate at the federal level, and a final decision will not be made until 2009.
    Another topic raised was the downtown redevelopment. Large chains such as Bed Bath and Beyond, PETCO, and Hy-Vee will begin construction in the north end shopping area next year.
     “A city is only as strong as its core, and adding these businesses will only strengthen our core and improve the economy,” commissioner James Sherow said. 
    A senior citizen center and a Great Plains discovery center are also in the planning stages. The discovery center will include educational exhibits, lectures and a children’s area to spotlight hands-on tools for interactive learning.