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County’s land offer could be deciding factor

Federal officials are being coy and noncommittal about St. Clair County’s offer of free land for the relocating National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

“There are so many things we have to look at,” said Julia Collins, a NGA spokeswoman. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman David Kolarik said, “there are multiple other factors that affect the site-selection process.”

We understand the federal government has to go though its protracted site selection process. But if all four sites under consideration turn out to be essentially equal, of course the county’s offer to donate nearly 200 acres of land should be the deciding factor. If someone offered you nearly 200 acres, wouldn’t you take it?

Even without the land donation, the St. Clair County site seems the leader. It’s the only site owned free and clear by a public entity. It’s adjacent to Scott Air Force Base, which often has projects that involve NGA. The site would have direct interstate access from a new interchange, and good security options.

However, those other multiple factors include that the current NGA location is in Missouri, and so are the three other possible sites. Getting the agency moved across the Mississippi River will be a tough challenge. This is the point when talk of regionalism in the St. Louis area goes out the window. Missouri’s politicians will fight hard to make sure they don’t lose the NGA. Illinois politicians will have to work even harder to ensure that the selection is based on the sites themselves, and not just politics.

If that happens, we think St. Clair County’s donation gets accepted.