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COLUMBUS — A new device will give the local hazardous materials team the ability to test for Ebola, anthrax, ricin and other deadly pathogens.

Columbus City Council agreed Monday night to spend $40,610 on the pathogen detection system manufactured by BioFire Defense of Salt Lake City, Utah. About half the bill — $20,000 — will be covered by a grant awarded to Columbus Fire Department by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

Although the department’s hazmat team has never needed to test for things like Ebola and anthrax in the past, Columbus Fire Chief Dean Hefti told the city council the device is an important tool both locally and statewide.

The Columbus hazmat team has equipment to test solids and gases, he said, but not unknown bacteria. The new device can identify 16 different pathogens within an hour at a cost of $150 per test, according to Hefti.

Once the new pathogen detection system arrives, Columbus will be one of a few specialized hazmat teams across the state with this type of device.

Hefti said the equipment will be compatible with what’s used by the Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit, where three Ebola patients were treated earlier this year, and the Nebraska National Guard’s 72nd Civil Support Team.

The Columbus hazmat team is one of 10 across Nebraska supported under a memorandum of understanding with the state that allows the governor to call upon them at any time to respond to an incident and back up the Nebraska Hazardous Incident Team, which is comprised of the Nebraska State Patrol, State Fire Marshal’s Office and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Hefti said the other nine hazmat teams don’t have a pathogen detection system, so the Columbus team could be asked to provide support across the state. He expects the device to have a 10- to 12-year lifespan.

In other business, the council:

* agreed to request bids for an approximately $8.2 million project at the wastewater treatment plant as part of an ongoing expansion.

* approved the preliminary plat for Discoverer Fourth Subdivision north of 38th Street and west of 33rd Avenue, where the new Columbus High School will be built.

* agreed to accept proposals for a two-year lease on 130 acres of city-owned farmland at the north well field.

* approved an agreement with Columbus Public Schools for use of Columbus Aquatic Center through July 2018. CPS will pay $12,125 per year to use the indoor swimming pool for up to 175 hours. Fees of $43 per hour in the morning and $63 per hour in the afternoon will be charged for use beyond 175 hours.

* approved a contract with Hydro Klean that pays the Des Moines, Iowa, company $147,212 to install 5,588 feet of tube liner in sanitary sewer mains to improve the system’s performance and extend its life.

* rezoned a property at 1376 41st Avenue from single-family residential to urban-family residential so a duplex can be built.

* appointed Darin Bloomquist to a four-year term on the Columbus Public Library Board.

* reappointed Thomas Meek, Pam Perault and Tom Wunderlich to three-year terms on the Americans with Disabilities Compliance Committee and James P. Ferguson, Herman Person and Chuck Whitney to three-year terms on the Columbus Board of Airport Commissioners.

* Mayor Mike Moser also signed a proclamation declaring December 2014 as Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

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Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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