Originally created 07/12/00

Committee approves biotech lab



AIKEN - A plan to build a $1.8 million biotechnology laboratory on Aiken County's Savannah River Research Campus cleared its first hurdle Tuesday night when it gained the unanimous approval of the Aiken County Administrative Committee.

The new facility would be built next to the three-story office building that was completed in 1995. The laboratory was requested by an unnamed biotechnology research firm that is planning to conduct research on a national and international level, Aiken County Administrator Bill Shepherd said.

"We are currently in negotiations with the tenant who is also looking to lease space in the office building," Mr. Shepherd said.

He noted that the firm has agreed to a guaranteed lease payment during five years that would repay construction expenses incurred by the county. The long-term lease also would ensure continuing work for about 50 people. The action by the administrative committee sends a resolution authorizing Mr. Shepherd to issue requests for proposals for the design and construction of the facility to the full council when it meets next week.

The office building on the research campus is running at about 50 percent capacity, Mr. Shepherd said, with tenants on the first floor, half the second and none on the third.

"The situation is that the campus is so closely tied to what's going on at the site," he said, and no new major projects have been initiated.

The facility has approximately a dozen occupants. Waste Policy Institute has been a tenant since the building opened in 1995, but most of the tenants have been short-term, remaining only from six months to two years.

"There has been constant movement in and out to do studies at SRS for short periods of time," Mr. Shepherd said.

An additional construction resolution, this time for just less than $43,000 to renovate the White Pond Community Center, is also on its way to the full council next week. Approved by the Development Committee, the resolution awards the bid to Konstruction Services of White Pond, a community of fewer than 1,000 residents on the eastern edge of Aiken County between Windsor and Williston. Nearly half of the construction costs will be funded by a federal rural development grant, according to Brian Sanders, director of Aiken County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The plans are to renovate a county-owned building once used as a community center.

"It was a hazard. It had been closed and boarded up for about six years," District 1 Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said. "The community had no place for senior meals or the summer lunch program, and the citizens are very interested in getting the community center re-opened."

When the renovations are complete, Mr. Sanders said the center would include a large common room, a stage and a kitchenette.

"The White Pond Community Center used to be a very busy place. The citizens paid the electric bill and it was a place to vote, hold meetings, have parties, and other activities. For the past few years, the people have had no place to gather, " Mrs. Rawls said.

Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895.