Metro-East News

July 18, 2014

Air Force Times: Scott tied for first in best places to be stationed in America

Scott Air Force Base tied with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio, as the top place to live in the country, according to an Air Force Times assessment of 68 Air Force bases.

The bases were ranked on a weighted scale that took into account such major factors as quality of local schools, median housing costs and size of base commissaries, exchanges and health care facilities.

Other major categories included local crime rates, commute times to work, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and area sales taxes.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert called Scott's ranking a piece of great news, but added it was not totally surprising.

"I always felt Scott was climbing, climbing, climbing because of its importance," Eckert said. "It's neat to hear this kind of statement, to hear it's being recognized as truly at the top of the list. In our hearts it's been there for a long time."

Stephen Losey, an Air Force Times senior staff writer, spent eight months researching the metrics used to compile the air base rankings. In addition, he interviewed airmen stationed on some of the air bases to get their feedback, Losey said during an interview Friday.

"There was a captain (at Scott) who talked about what a tight-knit community it is, and how he was charmed by the community when he moved here," Losey said. "He found everybody very welcoming."

Scott and Wright-Patterson each received a total score of 167 points out of a possible score of 240 points, according to the assessment.

The lowest-rated score was 94 points for an undisclosed air base.

Air Force Times plans to publish its package of stories containing the air base rankings online Monday at airforcetimes.com/usaf-bases.

Ellen Krohne, the executive director of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, said she was delighted by the news that Scott is one of the best places for military personnel and their families.

"I'm not surprised because the community here really supports our airmen in so many ways," Krohne said. "And it's just wonderful news for Scott Air Force Base and our surrounding communities."

In two years, Congress will likely appoint another base re-alignment and closure panel to determine which domestic military installations to close, expand or leave alone.

Krohne declined to predict how the Air Force Times ranking will affect Scott's future. But it can't hurt, according to Krohne.

"I know that community support is one of the criteria" the base closure panel will look at in determining which bases to keep, Krohne said.

"I think anything we can do to help bolster community support is important to do," Krohne said. "The important thing is that we continue to make our airmen, and all the branches of the military, feel welcome when they come here."

Eckert cited the string of good news that's been popping up about Scott, from the awarding in 2013 of the Abilene Trophy -- which the Air Mobility Command hands out to communities that best support AMC bases -- to news of a few weeks ago that two cybersecurity squadrons would be coming to Scott, resulting in the creation of 320 new jobs.

The military's top leaders "all recognize that Scott Air Force Base is certainly extremely important today to their mission," Eckert said. "And it's gaining in importance."

But Eckert warned against complacency regarding Scott, especially in the run-up to the next round of base closures in a few years.

"We got to keep partnering, and keep doing everything we can to support that base," he said.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 239-2533.

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