St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern on Monday fired off a highly detailed and at times scathing critique of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s preliminary decision to locate NGA’s new $1.75 billion headquarters in North St. Louis rather than St. Clair County.
In a 19-page letter to the Kansas City office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the site-selection process, Kern took issue with the Corps of Engineers’ Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, which was issued April 1.
The FEIS held that North St. Louis is the preferred alternative for the new NGA West campus versus St. Clair County, on the grounds that NGA would work as an effective engine for urban renewal in a neighborhood blighted by poverty and crime and that it could better attract younger workers from local universities.
Kern blasted that decision, contending it revealed a “predetermined bias in favor of the St. Louis City site” and that it was undermined by factual inaccuracies that had been ignored by the Corps of Engineers when the county brought them to their attention.
“Even the simplest corrections, such as a negative reference to a document pertaining to a St. Clair County in Michigan,” was ignored, Kern wrote. “In fact, the FEIS actually added another negative reference to an environmental issue existing in St. Clair County, Missouri.”
Illinois leaders have pushed for St. Clair County’s proposed site, which is on 182 acres next to Scott Air Force Base.
“St. Clair County still unequivocally believes that the Scott AFB (St. Clair County) site best meets the needs of the NGA based on all six levels of criteria, including support of the NGA’s mission; existing and available workforce; security, environmental considerations; applicable regulations; schedule; and cost,” Kern wrote.
The final day for public comment on the preliminary NGA decision was Monday. Robert Cardillo, the NGA director, is set to announce his final decision on the site location after June 2.
The NGA, a secretive Defense Department intelligence agency that makes maps based on satellite imagery, announced two years ago it needs a new home for its western headquarters. It is currently housed at the 190-year-old St. Louis Arsenal just south of downtown St. Louis. The NGA must move because it needs more room to grow and modern infrastructure, such as heating-and-cooling systems.
Construction on the NGA site is set to begin in mid-2017,with completion set for 2021.