WASHINGTON — President Clinton’s proposed $7.2 billion Environmental Protection Agency budget includes the nearly $50 million still needed to complete construction and tackle initial startup costs of the new EPA complex in Research Triangle Park.

The proposed federal budget delivered to Congress on Monday includes $36.7 million to complete three buildings scrapped from the initial plan for the 509-acre site in 1997, after bidding for the project topped the $232 million Congress originally had budgeted. Plans since have been reinstated.

The buildings — a combustion research center, which houses experimental labs between two and three stories high, a national computer center and a childcare center — could be completed under the administration’s fiscal 2000 budget proposal, bringing the total construction cost of the project to $272.7 million.

“We are on schedule and on budget to complete the project in and around the first part of 2001,” said Bill Laxton, director of administration for the EPA in the Triangle. Laxton said the new EPA complex right now is “about 40 percent complete.”

But while the center should be completed in January 2001, the transition efforts will take a bit longer. The administration has set aside another $12.4 million to cover some of the start-up costs of the center during fiscal 2000, which begins Oct. 1. That money will only partly cover the overall transition bill as workers move in, and the costs for new computers, telephone systems and furnishings will extend well beyond the year 2000, Laxton said.

The EPA also will deal with overlap costs of running both the new center and old agency buildings for one year — numbers that have not been estimated, he said.

“Being the EPA, as environmental stewards, one of the basic things we have to pay attention to is what condition we leave the old places in,” Laxton said. “Any time you leave a building after 30 years, you’re going to have to deal with cleanup costs of what you leave behind.”

Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) Date: February 3, 1999 Page: C6 Copyright, 1999, The Durham Herald Company