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'Occupational safety issues' delay biometric center opening

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- The interim Biometrics Fusion Center slated to open in downtown Clarksburg has been delayed indefinitely.

The center was supposed to open sometime this month in former County Commissioner Tom Keeley's building at 347 W. Main St. In February, the Department of Defense signed a lease to locate in the building.

The center is expected to employ up to 75 people.

The opening has been delayed by "occupational safety issues," according to a Biometrics Fusion Center spokesman who declined to be identified. He also declined to be more specific about the building's problems.

Keeley has taken a temporary leave of absence from his position as head of the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration and could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The government's contract is for a three-year lease with two additional one-year options. The office will supplement the two other BFC test and evaluation facilities that are currently located at Harrison-Marion Regional Airport. The annual rent is estimated at $456,750.

The 29,870-square-foot facility will include a state-of-the-art demonstration center and a testing and evaluation laboratory space.

The demonstration center, which will be open by appointment only to federal customers, will focus on the benefits of biometrics, highlight the Biometrics Enterprise Solution and explain how biometrics is used in the areas of information assurance, physical access and tactical applications.

The permanent Biometrics facility is planned for the FBI complex, with construction projected to begin in 2006. When complete, the permanent site will house 150-175 jobs, infuse between $18-$20 million into the state's economy annually and open the door for new private-sector investments.

The Army-administered center tests high-end commercial identification software for military applications, such as biometric "smart cards" that could be used to limit access to defense networks and facilities. Biometrics is the science of using bodily characteristics such as fingerprints or iris patterns for identification purposes.

Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com