Metro-East News

St. Clair County wants OK to transfer land for agency move to MidAmerica

In order for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to locate in St. Clair County, the county needs permission from the federal government to transfer airport land.

St. Clair County officials plan to formally request the federal government to release the county from obligations and Federal Aviation Administration requirements for land at MidAmerica Airport, which has a joint-use agreement with Scott Air Force Base.

Property at the airport was acquired with federal grant assistance.

The county hopes the NGA locates a new facility on 178 acres at Scott Air Force Base.

A resolution to ask for the release was approved by the St. Clair County Finance Committee this week and is being forwarded to the full County Board.

Federal approval would be required to transfer the land for the NGA, said Interim Director of Administration Debra Moore.

“The chairman has been working very vigorously… to locate that facility in St. Clair County, the most viable place for it given its proximity to Scott, (and) the availability of land, and we want to move that process forward,” Moore said.

Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the FAA, said the agency is aware the request is coming, but he couldn’t speculate on how long a decision would take.

In April, the county’s Public Building Commission approved demolishing a 400-square-foot shed and abating asbestos for $6,500 to prepare the land for the NGA.

No other work was expected to be needed to prepare the 178 acres of land for construction.

“We’re positioning this location in the best possible light, which we believe is the most positive light,” St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said. “We believe it’s the best location for this facility.”

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 into an 800,000-square-foot facility. The new facility is expected to bring about 3,000 jobs.

Kern said leaders in Washington will end up making the final decision.

“We have great faith St. Clair County will be chosen,’ Kern said. “We certainly understand that we’re competing with other locations. We remain optimistic, but we also remain guardedly optimistic.”

The agency, which has headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Virginia., plans to announce the selection of the new NGA site in 2016.

St. Clair County’s location at MidAmerica Airport is competing with three sites in the St. Louis area: 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.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday signed legislation to expand his state’s tax increment financing program in order to help keep the NGA on the western side of St. Louis metropolitan area.

According to reports, St. Louis officials are considering borrowing up to $20 million so the city could buy properties on the 100-acre site in the northern part of St. Louis to potentially sell to the federal government for the NGA relocation.