Thursday, August 27, 2020

Chamber Members Hear Details of New Veterans Center: Lt. Governor Discusses Tourism

Joel Kintsel
Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs

Joel Kintsel, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, was on hand at Wednesday's monthly Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce meeting to share exciting information for the community regarding the upcoming construction of the new Sallisaw Veterans Center.

Groundbreaking for the 70 million dollar facility is set for Sept. 25, 2020. Kintsel shared photo renderings  and drawings of the facility and stated that it would be the "newest and best state of the art facility of its kind in the world."

Kintsel said that the vision behind the design of the center was to create a warm, homelike, happy place for its residents. "Our goal was to create something that's not too institutional," Kintsel said.

The 214,000 sq. foot facility will have the ability to house 175 residents and will be comprised of five separate areas connected by a central hallway designed to be a "main street" connecting the five "neighborhoods" which will house 35 residents each.

Each neighborhood will function as a self-contained community with an eating area and its own enclosed, private garden space. Each veteran will have his/her own private room within their neighborhood.

The facility will also contain 13 separate storm shelter spaces designed to withstand F5 tornadoes. 

The projected local economic impact of the Sallisaw Veterans Center to the area is $11.9 Million in personnel expenses and $18.5 Million in direct and indirect operating expenses.

The center is expected to be completed and ready to open in the Fall of 2022. 

Matt Pinnell, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor

Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell also spoke at the meeting and shared with members his passion to make Oklahoma a "Top 10 State." 

"We need to keep people in Oklahoma and recruit people to Oklahoma in order to be a Top 10 State," said Kintsel. "We are better than just OK!"

Pinnell serves as the Secretary of Tourism and Branding on Governor Kevin Stitt’s cabinet and as such also oversees the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. Pinnell is leading the state’s efforts to promote tourism, the third largest industry in Oklahoma. 

"I do not believe there is another state that can match our heritage and history," Pinnell said.

Pinnell also shared information regarding plans to update the Sallisaw visitor centers and rest areas located on Interstate 40 just east of Sallisaw. "We need to change the perception of people crossing into Oklahoma and our priority will be the Sallisaw facilities," stated Pinnell.

(l to r) Dist. 6 Tribal Councilman Daryl Legg, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, 
and District 5 Tribal Councilman E.O. Smith

The Cherokee Nation was also honored during the meeting as the Chamber Member of the Month. "The Cherokee Nation has had a tremendous impact on our community," stated Chamber President Jaime Henson who went on to list many of the numerous organizations and programs that the CN supports locally. "They are opening doors every day for their tribal community," Henson added.

Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Councilmen Daryl Legg and E.O. Smith, along with other tribal leaders, accepted the honor.

News Staff

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