As plans move forward on the federal level to eventually relocate research operations at Plum Island to Kansas, one local elected official wants to make sure that the town, set one of its biggest employers, isn't left in the dust.
Councilman Al Krupski voiced a concern last Tuesday that the town is "in danger of being overlooked," a prospect he considers dangerous. Krupski said the fear of the unknown looms large over what may happen on the island in the future, and to what end.
According to the town's 2010 external audit, Plum Island Animal Disease Center is the town's second biggest employer, with 330 employees in 2010.
"I think we should get people into Town Hall to make sure that they know – the federal government knows – what we think is important on Plum Island," he said last week. Krupski suggested bringing in representatives of New York Sen. Charles Schumer, D, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D.
Supervisor Scott Russell said he doesn't believe the town has been overlooked at all, but rather kept in the loop. There just happens to be nothing new to report at the time.
"'Up in the air' is the most precise term I can think of in terms of Plum Island," Russell said. "But generally speaking, both senators and (Congressman) Tim Bishop have taken the same position Southold has, which is that Plum Island is an excellent facility in terms of its current scope and scale, and it should stay there."
Russell said he would reach out to representatives of both senators.
Federal legislation was passed in 2009 that mandated proceeds from the sale of Plum Island to help curb construction costs of an upgraded, more secure National Bio Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Ks. The lab, projected to cost $650 million, is slated to break ground on construction in early 2012 and be operational by 2019, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, R, formed a steering committee less than two weeks ago to coordinate building the facility.
The General Services Administration, the federal entity charged with eventually excessing Plum Island, held scoping hearings on Long Island and in Connecticut in the spring of 2010 to solicit comments on the sale of Plum Island. GSA Spokeswoman Paula Santangelo said she's unsure if the GSA has been back in touch with the town since then, though a final environmental impact statement is currently being reviewed and is expected to be available for review later this year.
While the federal government owns the 840 acres off the coast of Orient Point, a 9.5 acre-plot in Orient Point and the facilities themselves, the town sill controls zoning of the property. The town's Planning Department is currently undertaking that task as part of its Comprehensive Plan.
Krupski said he would like to see the zoning completed before the end of the year.