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County Executive Stenger supports city site for NGA relocation

Steve Stenger

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is throwing his support behind St. Louis city’s site for the relocated National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The Democrat sent a letter on Friday to NGA director Robert Cardillo. In it he proclaimed St. Louis County’s "unconditional support" for the 100-acre site in north St. Louis.

The move is significant as two of the four proposed NGA sites are in St. Louis County. Those include the former Chrysler plant in Fenton and the MetLife facility in Mehlville. The NGA also is considering land near Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois.

In the letter, Stenger detailed transportation and hospital access, the construction and labor force, and St. Louis’ entertainment options as reasons for the NGA to stay in the city.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay eagerly accepted the support. The mayor said it’s important for regional officials to be unified in their effort to keep the agency in the city.

"Having everybody in the St. Louis area on the Missouri side working together is really critical," he said. "It shows that St. Louis city and county are working together to keep these jobs where they are."

The 3,100 NGA employees that work at the current location south of downtown pay about $2.4 million in city earnings taxes each year. The state of Missouri receives about $8 million in withholding taxes from the workers.

Illinois officials have made a strong pitch to the NGA to move the facility near Scott Air Force Base. St. Clair County chairman Mark Kern has promised to give the land to the NGA.

Mayor Slay admitted the competition for the federal facility is fierce, in part because the city must buy out several property owners and move residents from the 100-acre site.

"This is hard. We have a lot of challenges in bidding for this because of the nature of the area," Slay said.

This summer, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved taking a $20 million loan to help pay for the site preparation. Meanwhile, some of the north city site's residents oppose the effort to relocate the NGA to where they now live. One resident delivered more than 95,000 signatures to the NGA in May with the help of the Virginia-based Institute for Justice.

In a statement explaining his position, Stenger urged other regional government leaders to "articulate their strong support" for the city’s proposed NGA location.

Despite that, St. Louis County Councilman Kevin O’Leary, whose sixth district includes the Mehlville site, said he was not aware of Stenger’s intent to send the letter.

"Being that that’s in my district I would have liked to possibly have seen a little more talk about it," O’Leary said Friday afternoon. "But I’m sure he knows a heck of a lot more about it than I do."

The NGA is expected to make its decision next spring.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.