Friday, January 18, 2019

Legislation Filed to Stop Transfer of Veterans Center

A Latimer County state representative has filed legislation intended to stop the transfer of an Oklahoma Veterans Center from Talihina to Sallisaw.

State Rep. Jim Grego said House Bill 1149 would eliminate the authorization to transfer the center that was first granted by legislation passed in 2017 and signed into law by former Gov. Mary Fallin.

“There is no reason the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs can’t update this existing facility to better accommodate the needs of its residents,” said Grego, R-Wilburton.

It was announced last fall the Oklahoma Veterans Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs would move the 175-bed, long-term veterans care center from the aging Talihina facility to a new $100 million center in Sallisaw within the next three to five years. The center employees about 275 people.

Sallisaw City Manager Keith Skelton said progress is still moving forward with Sallisaw officials for the relocation.

“A bill has been filed, but it still has to go through a lot of steps to be heard,” Skelton said. “As far as the City of Sallisaw and all its partners, we responded to the Oklahoma Veterans Commission’s request for proposals in good faith. We followed all the steps laid out in the law last year by Gov. Fallin.”

Skelton said Sallisaw submitted proposals like many other communities did; however, the Sallisaw proposal included moving considerations for center employees, as well as other property incentives and contributions from a number of Sallisaw businesses and organizations in a unified collaboration with the city. Officials are excited about moving forward with the relocation of the veterans center to Sallisaw, keeping in mind the best interests of the veterans and their families.

“We are very happy to be named the site of the new veterans center,” he said. “We just hope everybody realizes its in the best interest of the veterans that Sallisaw remains the site of the new center.”

Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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