By Dennis Grubaugh
Illinois Business Journal
SCOTT AFB — St. Clair County officials today upped the ante in the stakes to land an intelligence agency now located in St. Louis. And land was the operative word.
The county, which had already agreed to give 182 acres of property next to Scott Air Force Base, increased that offer by another 200 acres, in hopes of getting the $1.6 billion project.
St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern, standing at a press conference alongside Madison County counterpart Alan Dunstan and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said the planning team behind the Illinois proposal had agreed to offer the additional land in case the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency could use it. There are no conditions attached to the offer, but it will only be given if NGA decides to relocate to the land near Scott AFB.
The 182 acres included in the previous county offer is all south of Wherry Road (southwest of a new Interstate 64 interchange now being built). The additional land thrown into the mix is an option of two sites:
– One option is 200 acres, mostly north of Wherry Road and east of Old Illinois Route 158; and
– The second option is 219 acres south of Wherry Road and west of Old Route 158.
St. Clair County owns all of the properties.
“This would enable them to double the site and enable them to build for generations,” Kern said. “It would not only allow them to have additional buffer or building zone, but it would provide opportunities for NGA to do whatever they wanted on the site. St. Clair County offers this at no cost to NGA in order to help them make this the best possible spot for them in the United States.”
Durbin said the main competing site in North St. Louis is so mired in property questions that there is no way the city of St. Louis could match the convenience of Scott AFB land availability and do it in the next calendar year.
“It is hard to believe that in 13 months they’ll be able to quiet title this site they are proposing to the federal government. By contrast … the (Scott land) is available for transfer immediately,” Durbin said.
Earlier in the day, members of Illinois’ congressional delegation repeated their support for moving the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to the east side of the Mississippi River.
Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, sent an additional letter to NGA Director Robert Cardillo highlighting the operational and financial benefits of the O’Fallon site in St. Clair County for the new NGA West facilities. Among the advantages, they say, are location, workforce, free land availability, interstate access and synergies with the commands located at Scott.
Representatives of the congressmen were present at today’s press conference at Scott AFB.
“We believe that the St. Clair County site adjacent to Scott Air Force Base represents the best option to help the NGA achieve its stated mission to ‘deliver world-class geospatial intelligence that provides a decisive advantage to policymakers, warfighters, intelligence professionals and first responders,” the letter reads. “At a time when our national security is at increased risk, the NGA ensures we have the tools necessary to keep Americans safe, both at home and abroad.”
The United States Army Corps of Engineers released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing the qualities of four competing sites for the new NGA West campus that includes the St. Clair County site and three in Missouri.
At stake are some 3,100 jobs. The city of St. Louis wants the facility relocated to an area on the north side and has been actively obtaining property access, although hundreds of properties are involved. Two other Missouri locations, in Mehlville and Fenton and considered to be less likely, are also in the running.
The current facility, located on St. Louis’ south side, is considered highly antiquated. The federal government is to make a site decision next spring.