Metro-East News

Sens. Durbin and Kirk, Mark Kern, others to meet with NGA director

A meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C., could represent St. Clair County’s last, best hope for bringing the $1.75 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to the county.

At 1:30 p.m. Central time Thursday, County Board Chairman Mark Kern and U.S. senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are scheduled to meet with Robert Cardillo, the NGA’s director. The meeting’s purpose: to discuss inaccuracies and other problems discovered in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers April 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, that — in the view of Kern and Illinois lawmakers — unfairly hurt the county’s chances of attracting NGA West and, conversely, unfairly boosted the chances of North St. Louis.

Also scheduled to attend the meeting are U.S. represenatives Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; John Shimkus, R-Collinsville; and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville or members of their staffs. Another player invited to attend is Army Col. Andrew D. Sexton, the commander of the Kansas City Army Corps District, which was responsible for drafting the FEIS.

Cardillo is expected to announce his final decision on the NGA location after June 2.

A likely road map through Thursday’s meeting could be found in the letter that Kirk on Tuesday sent to the Comptroller General of the United States. In the letter, the senator seeks the launch of a review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ FEIS that favors the North St. Louis site over St. Clair County for the new western headquarters of the NGA.

Kirk, in the letter to Gene L. Dodaro, the comptroller general, said the Corps of Engineers ignored previously identified errors in the draft report, followed specific regulations while ignoring others and “ranked the total cost of the project as the lowest priority.”

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.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000