Metro-East News

St. Clair County OKs demolition, asbestos removal to woo NGA

In an effort to help attract the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to the area, the St. Clair County Public Building Commission gave the OK to demolish a small building and fill in a well at MidAmerica Airport.

The commission on Thursday awarded a contract to Freeman Environmental Services, out of Benton, for demolition and asbestos abatement work at MidAmerica Airport for about $6,500.

“Although the vast majority of structures on airport property were demolished when the property was purchased, a small structure on parcel 18 and a well house on parcel 99 remained,” according to a memo to PBC members.

St. Clair County officials are hoping to attract the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to Scott Air Force Base, which has a joint-operating agreement with MidAmerica Airport. Last year, St. Clair County officials proposed locating the agency on a 178-acre site, which includes the 400-square-foot shed and well house.

“To ensure the highest and best likelihood of attracting the facility, the aforementioned structures require demolition and environmental clearance,” the memo to PBC members said.

The airport received six other bids that ranged from $12,700 to $44,600. Engineers estimated the work to cost $19,000, said Airport Director Tim Cantwell.

“It’s a small building (with) a little bit of abatement on asbestos,” Cantwell said.

When land was purchased for the airport, some structures were abandoned and left on the west side of the airport.

“We don’t want to touch them until we need to touch them,” Cantwell said. “We need to touch these. We just need to clean it up.”

The demolition and asbestos work is the first set of dollars the county is spending to prepare the site as it attempts to attract the NGA, said airport engineer Daniel Trapp.

No other work is expected to be needed to prepare the land for construction, Cantwell said.

There are other resolutions that need to be passed in order to transfer land to a federal agency, Cantwell said.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern previously offered to donate nearly 200 acres free of charge to entice the NGA; but the NGA wasn’t entertaining incentives at the time.

The NGA is a combined defense and intelligence agency responsible for collecting, classifying and analyzing human activity around the world and showing this activity in the form of maps, charts and imagery intelligence.

The current NGA facilities at 3200 S. 2nd St. in St. Louis are housed in century-old buildings that pose security and safety concerns. The agency expects to move from that location by 2021.

The agency, which is headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Va., plans to announce the selection of the new NGA site in 2016.

Three other sites are under consideration: the site of the demolished Pruitt-Igoe housing project in North St. Louis, the old Met Life Insurance building in south St. Louis County and the razed Chrysler car plant off of Interstate 44 in Fenton.

Cantwell said the MidAmerica site is probably the cleanest site of the four sites being considered.

The agency is looking to build an 800,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to bring about 3,000 jobs.