Cherokees Pledge $300,000
Cherokee Nation's involvement in the community and their support of veterans overall played a key role in the state's recent decision to relocate the Veteran's Center to Sallisaw, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, said this week.
Shane Faulkner, public information officer for the ODVA Central Office Division, who provided an update on the construction process, said movement on the project is dependent upon a prioritized funding list released by the State Home Construction Grant Program.
“We're hoping to know where we sit on that list. It could be as early as next Spring in getting the notice. Once the project is funded, we can move forward,” Faulkner said.
The Oklahoma Veterans Commission (OVC) announced in October its decision to locate the center in Sallisaw citing Sallisaw's business climate, population growth trends, the availability of a hospital and other resources as some of the reasons.
“I can tell you several Commissioners told me the Cherokee Nation's involvement definitely impacted their decision,” Faulkner said. When the decision was announced, Faulkner said any of the cities submitting bids would have been ideal for the veterans but with the Cherokee Nation's input regarding infrastructure and continuing support even after the facility is completed offered more to the bid.
Cherokee Nation officials applauded the OVC for selecting Sallisaw for the center's new home. The tribe pledged $300,000 to help with relocation and start-up costs for the new center. In addition to financial assistance, the tribe pledges support from its Career Services to secure the center's workforce.
Bryan Warner, Sequoyah County Council District 6 representative, said he appreciates the efforts of his fellow councilman E.O. “Junior” Smith, who represents District 5 and Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, who is a veteran, and other tribal representatives who support the Veterans and the new center.
Chief Baker said he is pleased the veteran's center will be relocating to Sallisaw., “Inside the Cherokee Nation where we can provide startup support to get them off the ground now and then work to partner moving forward,” Baker said. “Our veterans pledged their lives to preserve our freedom and they must be better taken care of.”
Warner who spearheaded and garnered support from the tribe said he is proud to bring the veteran's center to his hometown of Sallisaw.
“This is a big deal,” Warner said. “With 250 to 300 jobs to open up once the center is built, we're always looking at ways to help with recruitment and other services and this is just a start. We will be able to have such things as angel trees for veterans and work with the Cherokee owned businesses in Sequoyah County and infrastructure will include roads to the veterans center, the parking lot and just do the best we can for the veterans.”
Faulkner said an architect has been hired for the new facility and will announce when funding comes through for the actual construction.
“The plans are in process but we don't have any designs yet,” Faulkner said.
Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens could not be reached for comment but said the “team effort” involved Cherokee Nation officials, Sallisaw Improvement Corporation, Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce, local banking institutions and other community leaders and businesses to secure property and other incentives.