Metro-east lawmakers continued Wednesday to press their case with Robert Cardillo, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, on why the spy agency should build its new $1.6 billion campus on a 182-acre St. Clair County site next-door to Scott Air Force Base.
Cardillo met Wednesday morrning with U.S. Rep. Mike Bost in Bost’s Capitol Hill office. Also present was U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Gov.Bruce Rauner.
“More than anything, it was to get some questions on the criteria that might come into play that we weren’t aware of,” Bost said of the meeting’s purpose.
More than anything, it was to get some questions on the criteria that might come into play that we weren’t aware of.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro
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Cardillo told the lawmakers and staffers that he expected to make his decision on where to build NGA West before March 31, while the final decision will be made 60 days after that.
Cardillo said he wants to ensure the decision-making behind which of the four sites that are being considered — one in North St. Louis, two in St. Louis County, and the St. Clair County site — is as thorough as possible, according to Bost.
Bost said Cardillo made it clear that NGA West “isn’t an agency that’s moving here for five years. It’s an agency that’s moving to this location and will be permanent.”
The entire Illinois U.S. Congressional delegation — both of the senators, as well as Bost, Shimkus, Davis and 15 U.S. House representatives — signed onto a joint letter Tuesday that urges Cardillo to pick St. Clair County as the site for NGA West.
The two-page letter lays out the most detailed set of arguments yet on why the NGA West campus belongs in St. Clair County, on a site adjacent to Scott Air Force Base, and not on the 99-acre North St. Louis site that Missouri leaders are pushing.
NGA’s current home is near the St. Louis riverfront, just north of the Anheuser-Busch brewery and on the grounds of the 180-year-old St. Louis Arsenal. NGA needs a new home because its current location is too cramped and requires greater operational security. The NGA specializes in the production of maps and other “geo-spatial” information based on satellite imagery for military, intelligence and civilian customers.
The agency’s duties span a wide gamut centered on the creation of maps — for military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear disarmament specialists overseeing Iran’s nuclear enrichment sites, and geographers charting the changing terrain of the Arctic as its great ice sheets melt.
Based on what he’s heard and seen so far, including the meeting Monday, Bost said he’s gaining confidence that Cardillo will pick the St. Clair County site, which will result in the transfer of 3,100 jobs to the county from the current NGA site near downtown St. Louis.
“I feel comfortable we’re doing everything we possibly we can,” Bost said. “Our arguments are way above anything they have.”
To help sweeten the deal, St. Clair County has offered to provide the 182 acres to the government free of charge, plus another 200 acres if needed — real estate with an estimated value of $10 million.
In contrast, St. Louis has estimated the cost to taxpayers of obtaining the 99-acre site in North St. Louis and upgrading infrastructure such as streets and sewer lines to be no less than $130 million.