O'Fallon Progress

Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti discusses relations between Scott AFB, communities

On Friday, June 9 at O’Fallon City Hall, representing the local area, were three panel members to report to the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee chaired by Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, seated in the middle between Brian Costin, policy director and deputy chief of staff, on left, and legal council.
On Friday, June 9 at O’Fallon City Hall, representing the local area, were three panel members to report to the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee chaired by Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, seated in the middle between Brian Costin, policy director and deputy chief of staff, on left, and legal council. rkirsch@bnd.com

Local leaders converged in O’Fallon on Friday, June 9 to discuss with with Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti Scott Air Force Base’s relationship with the region.

Sanguinetti is chair to the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC) where updates to the Illinois Defense Industry Adjustment Program and IMBSEDC legislation. Founded in 2005, the IMBSEDC has a hand in and informs state and local officials on the issues relating to the military bases in the state.

Sanguinetti reported the General Assembly recently overwhelming passed House Bill 3032, with bipartisan support. HB3032 is meant intended to preserve, protect, expand and attract new military missions, assets and installations in Illinois. It would also be the vehicle to encourage defense related businesses to expand or relocate to the state. This would be a clearinghouse to elected officials and provide assistance to communities that could be or have been impacted by military realignments or base closings. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.

“So we are here to fight for our own military assets,” Sanguinetti said.

She also gave an update of recent Base Realignment And Closure initiatives that could mean possible closure of some military installations.

SAFB, the Rock Island Arsenal, and Naval Station Great Lakes in Lake County, near Chicago, are the top three active military base installations having the highest economic impact directly and indirectly with thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity across the state, according to Sanguinetti.

“In fact, Ohio Rep. Michael Turner, a senior member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, recently told a local delegation visiting D.C. to be prepared for Congress to authorize a round of base closures by 2020. So this legislation could not have come at a better time to help us out,” Sanguinetti said.

Local panel members included O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach, O’Fallon School District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby and Paul Evans, president of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce and a former Illinois state representative. Each had about 10 minutes to address the group.

O’Fallon is the second-largest city in the metro-east with a population of over 30,000 people, and the base is responsible for a good deal of the city’s growth, Roach said.

“Twenty percent of our population is made up of current or retired military families, so we have a very close tie to the relationship with Scott Air Force Base and the citizens who come into our community from the base,” Roach said. “Many of our alderman are also past members of Scott Air Force Base. As the fifth fastest growing community in the St. Louis area, we welcome the addition of the people who have come to our community from the base, because they have brought to us some new ideas and concepts that we would not have been exposed to. So we have a very good blending of the old work ethic of the community and new ideas that the people of the base have brought to us.”

Evans said numerous local programs involve various aspects of military life. Examples of some include the new military family readiness and welcome clubs, the annual Armed Forces Ball, annual Salute to Scott AFB Family Picnic and Business Expo, annual Honor Guard Member Award, and the AFJROTC Summer Leadership Program.

“We give coupons, discounts, letter writing, workshops, home cooked meals, welcome packages, anything that we can do to support our base, our chamber has pledged to do,” Evans said.

Hruby said there are 7,205 students enrolled among the area’s four school districts (O’Fallon 90, Central 104, OTHS 203, and Shiloh 85). Students of military families account for 1,314, or about 18 percent, of that total.

“I think it’s pretty powerful to look at the number of military students. For example, in my district, about 28 percent are active military students,” Hruby said.

Students from military families face special challenges due to the mobile nature of military life. Such challenges include adjustments to new schools, multiple moves, making new and losing close friends, obtaining student records and transferring credits, and deployment of parents or guardians, Hruby said.

“That’s a significant challenge for our students who are involved in the military. We often like to talk about the fact that it’s not just the parent who is in the service — it’s the students as well,” Hruby said. “We try to encourage, ‘Don’t just think of a serviceman or women when you salute, think of his or her child as well, because they’re also serving our country.’”

Hruby said the local schools have a good relationship with Dr. Cindy Doil, the SAFB liaison to local educators, when it comes to working with the military families.

“We work closely with her to help make those transitions easier for them,” Hruby said.

O’Fallon Ward 3 Alderman Matt Gilreath was the only public commenter just before the near three-hour meeting commenced. He talked about growing up as a member of a military family and watching O’Fallon and Shiloh grow together.

“We don’t compete with one another. We are joint and work well together,” Gilreath said.

Both Hruby and Gilreath made pleas members of the state committee to review and try make changes to the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption, which they said has had an adverse impact on local school funding.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch

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