Long-delayed Chicago veterans home set for completion in December
By DAN PETRELLA | Chicago Tribune | Published: March 16, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — A long-delayed state veterans home in the Dunning neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side is set to be completed in December, with the first residents expected to move in next spring, officials said.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker was joined by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, other elected officials and local veterans at a ceremony Friday afternoon marking the placement of the last structural piece of the building, which was proposed a decade ago by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
"We're committed to seeing that this work is completed and getting it done efficiently and effectively for the taxpayers as well as making sure that it happens as quickly as possible for our veterans," Pritzker said.
The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the 200-bed facility at 4250 N. Oak Park Ave. in September 2014, but the project stalled after Quinn lost his re-election bid less than two months later.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner halted construction of the facility, which had an initial price tag of $70.5 million, during his protracted budget impasse with the Democratic-controlled legislature. Construction resumed after Rauner and Democratic leaders reached a budget truce in June 2016. The federal government is covering roughly two-thirds of the cost.
"Politics and ideology won out over our fundamental responsibility to those who served our country," Pritzker said Friday. "A personal agenda took precedence over doing what's right for the people of Illinois, but those days are over.
"I'm so proud to make this veterans home a reality and to make clear to veterans in every corner of our state that this state is on your side."
The Chicago home will be Illinois' fifth state-run long-term care facility for veterans. Among the four existing facilities, the nearest one to Chicago is about 50 miles south in Manteno. The state's management of the facilities during the Rauner administration came under scrutiny after a 2015 outbreak of Legionella bacteria at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Since then, 14 people have died and 70 others have been sickened at the facility, which opened in 1886. A resident of the state veterans home in Manteno died in January after contracting Legionnaire's disease.
Pritzker on Thursday visited the Quincy home in western Illinois, vowing to break ground this year on a $245 million replacement facility.
Among those who joined Pritzker at the ceremony Friday was Linda Chapa LaVia, acting director of the state Veterans' Affairs Department. Pritzker appointed Chapa LaVia, a longtime Democratic state representative from Aurora who previously served in the Illinois Army National Guard, last month after his initial appointee withdraw his name from consideration. Jaime Martinez, the executive director of Illinois Joining Forces, did not publicly give a reason for his decision.
(c)2019 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.