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USDA finds no takers for new Fairbanks greenhouse

Posted: December 21, 2012 - 1:06am

FAIRBANKS — A $1.2 million greenhouse complex completed earlier this year in Fairbanks is headed for the federal transfer or disposal process.

The complex was part of research station operated by the federal Agricultural Research Service. Alaska’s station and nine others were closed in a cost-saving measure by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the department has found no permanent tenant.

The complex is west of Fairbanks near the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It includes two greenhouses, lab modules and a 64-by-64-foot “headhouse” containing offices, storage space and areas for starting seeds.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the federal General Services Administration in January will start the process for disposing of the complex. Preference would be given to the USDA and other federal agencies.

UAF officials have their eyes on two modular buildings that could be moved onto campus.

The UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences uses research greenhouses and reviewed the off-campus facility but decided it did not fit university needs.

“The logistics of it and the cost of maintaining it just didn’t make sense for us,” interim dean Stephen Sparrow said.

The Alaska Center for Energy and Power used the building until October decided it was too energy inefficient and costly for a long-term commitment, said director Gwen Holdmann.

“It’s a great facility for the right user,” Holdmann said. “The problem is ARS was the right user, and they’re gone.”

The USDA projected a $40 million savings by closing the research stations. Ten people employed in Alaska were transferred.

ARS spokeswoman Sandy Miller Hays there has been no significant effort to reopen the stations.

“If they’re closed, they’re closed,” Miller Hays said.

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