Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Officials Share How Veterans Center Will Impact Sallisaw

Future home of Sallisaw's veterans center on Hwy 59 South.

Now that Sallisaw has been selected by the Oklahoma Veterans Commission as the home for Oklahoma’s newest Veterans Center, questions abound as to how the facility will impact Sallisaw.

City officials are ecstatic over the selection and feel that only good things will come from the veteran center relocation from Talihina.

Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens said he envisions a boom to the city’s economy from many aspects of the project, including more jobs, more visitors to the city and more new business in the city.

Sallisaw City Manager Keith Skelton said he was proud of how the community came together to provide an attractive proposal, which edged out Muskogee and Poteau for the relocation.

“This project will give our veterans a facility that will enhance their quality of life; a facility in a community that will enhance the veterans for who they are and what they have done for our great country,” Skelton said.

Officials said the city worked closely with Cherokee Nation, Sallisaw Improvement Corporation, Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce, local banking institutions and other community leaders and businesses to secure property and other incentives.

George Bormann, the city’s economic development director, said being able to host a $100 million facility will definitely impact the city in a positive way.

Bormann said while there is no official timeline for the project, he has heard the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs construction is usually completed within three years. ODVA officials are in the process of securing a design and architect.

The building itself will include 175 beds for veterans in a skilled nursing facility, according to Bormann. The facility should bring between 200-250 jobs to the city, including some during the construction phase.

Funding for the $100 million project will include $65 million in federal matching funds along with $35 million financed through the state of Oklahoma.

The ODVA’s latest facility in Lawton is touted as “the crown jewel of Oklahoma,” because of its fishing pond with a gazebo, a walking track around the facility and pond that is well-lit at night. A chapel is available to residents and their families as well as the community, and an auditorium serves as a storm shelter, holding hundreds of people.

Bormann said since the Sallisaw facility will be even newer and include more state-of-the-art amenities, he would expect the construction to include many of those features, and possibly more.

“While Lawton was the latest one built, ours should be even more state-of-the-art with more amenities,” Bormann said.

Included in the city’s proposal was a 90-acre tract of land just west of South U.S. Highway 59, which includes approximately 900 to 1,000 feet of highway frontage on Hwy. 59 and approximately 2,000 feet of frontage along Drake Road.

Martens said the location’s proximity to Interstate 40, along with other incentives, is what set Sallisaw apart in the selection process.

“We are very happy with our selection, but most importantly, it was a decision made with the best interest of the veterans and their families in mind,” Martens said.

Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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