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Illinois officials continue to push for NGA

Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio
A map of the proposed location for the new NGA facility in St. Clair County. It includes the original 182 acres offered by the county, as well as another 200 acres.

St. Louis all but declared victory after the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s director gave the city the nod earlier this month for a new $1.75 billion facility.

Yet officials across the river aren’t giving up on a 182-acre site in St. Clair County.

"We aren’t just talking about argument about which side of the river it’s going on," said Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois. "We’re talking about the long-term security of this facility as well as the overall cost to taxpayers."

Bost and other Illinois officials point to errors in the Final Environmental Impact Statement put together by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that sometimes confused the Illinois county with St. Clair counties in Missouri and Michigan.

"Any information that’s given when you’re going to make a decision like that should be accurate, first off, and all information should be given," the Republican lawmaker said. "I think there was some information that was actually deleted out of the north St. Louis site that was vitally important as far as safety and security."

Bost argues the site, made up of farmland near Scott Air Force Base, would be safer and would need little preparation ahead of construction, making it a more affordable option.

The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois commissioned a study on security at both sites. The newspaper obtained the  report, done by Command Consulting Group of Washington, D. C., and said it found the Illinois site had major advantages.

That report and other comments are being submitted to the NGA during a public comment period that runs through Monday. NGA director Robert Cardillo is expected to make his final decision in early June.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois also are requesting a meeting with Cardillo in May. Bost and fellow Republican House members Rodney Davis and John Shimkus also say they will attend.

Davis told Illinois Public Radio that the nearly 400 acres offered to the NGA in St. Clair County provides the agency with both the opportunity to grow and security.

"I think that priority was not put as high as what it should have been when the administration made the decision to locate this new facility in St. Louis," Davis said.

St. Louis Public Radio made multiple attempts to reach the Leadership Council’s executive Ronda Sauget for an interview, as well St. Clair County chairman Mark Kern, to no avail.

Meanwhile, Missouri officials also are encouraging citizens to support the north St. Louis site and submit comments. Congressman William Lacy Clay told supporters in a newsletter this week that they had the power to help finalize the selection of north St. Louis for the NGA.

"Winning the preliminary site selection competition was huge, but I need you to take part in the public comment period which runs through May 2nd," said the Democratic Congressman in his newsletter "Backbone."

In St. Louis, officials say they’re moving forward with land acquisition efforts for the NGA site. At the same time St. Louis Development Corporation Otis Williams says they’re asking for citizens’ support within the public comment period.

"We’re being vigilant," he said.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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

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