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Granite City, Scott Air Force Base part of funding bill

Army Reserve center construction could receive $20 million

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While the U.S. Army has for the most part left what is now River's Edge in Granite City, funding for a new Army Reserve Center at the former base will bring it back in a big way.

A military appropriations bill working its way through Congress could mean more than $60 million in construction funds for local projects in Granite City and at Scott Air Force Base.

The bill includes $20.9 million for a new U.S. Army Reserve Training Center in River's Edge and $47.75 for new construction at Scott Air Force Base.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) announced Wednesday that the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill was approved by the Senate and is going to a joint Senate-House Conference Committee. A Conference Committee includes members of both Houses, who work out differences in competing bills, which must then be voted on again by the House and Senate.

According to David Gillies, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Belleville), the House version of the bill approved in May only includes $34.55 million for new construction at Scott.

The Army Reserve Center would be located in an area that now contains buildings and equipment for a number of military reserve units still housed at River's Edge.

The $20 million facility would include meeting and conference rooms that would be used by the military on weekends and during training. A joint-use agreement with the Tri-City Port District would allow the facility to be used by others when not needed by the military.

Dennis Wilmsmeyer, general manager of the Port District, said the project has been "moving forward" for some time.

"They will be demolishing at least one building," he said.

Work is expected to begin sometime in 2007 if funding is approved.

In 1995, the base at River's Edge was slated for closure under the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, but local officials were able to persuade the Department of Defense to take it off the list.

However, the U.S. Army Material Command, which "owned" the base, decided the overhead cost was too high and that it was not needed.

Normally the property would have been padlocked and turned over to the General Services Administration, which would have eventually either turned it over to another state or federal agency, or auctioned off the remaining property. However, Costello was able to introduce legislation to transfer almost all the property to the Port District.

Since then, the Port District has been converting the base to a mixed-use commercial/industrial/residential/recreational development.

At Scott Air Force Base, the proposed funding included $8.2 million for a new child development center to replace an existing facility.

That facility has less than half the space it should have for the number of children it serves, and needs major renovations.

The bill also includes $34.55 million for several other construction projects including $20 million for a 120-room dormitory, $10.2 million for a squadron operations facility, and $4.35 million for a contractor logistics support storage facility.

E-mail: scousins@yourjournal.com

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