Sallisaw competing for veterans center

Sallisaw is one of three cities competing to be the new location of the Talihina Veterans Center.

The other cities competing are Poteau and Muskogee, but there could potentially be others. The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs has said it will not consider locations more than 90 miles away from the center's current location in Talihina in southern LeFlore County. Sallisaw is about 75 to 80 miles away from Talihina.

Sallisaw has called a special meeting of the board of city commissioners for 11:15 a.m. today (Aug. 17) to consider items related to dipping into the city's reserve fund to provide up to $200,000 for incentive funding for solicitation of the veterans center.

Sallisaw City Manager Keith Skelton said the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs  Veterans Commission issued a request for proposal on June 25 for the relocation of the center.

Skelton said the city staff has been looking at ways to respond to the proposal since that time. According to a proposed resolution to be considered Friday, the city is acting in partnership with the Cherokee Nation and the Sallisaw Improvement Corporation to provide funding for the solicitation.

Officials from Sallisaw, Muskogee and Poteau visited a veterans center in Lawton Aug. 8 to get some idea of what type of facility would need to be built should they be chosen as the new site.

Proposals are to be submitted by Aug. 29, and the nine-person board of the Oklahoma Veterans Commission will ultimately decide the location. The commission meets Sept. 24 to consider all proposals.

Skelton did not say if the city planned to propose the construction of a new facility, or if an existing building can be utilized, either of which could be suitable.

The state House of Representatives passed a bill in March that would move the center out of Talihina and authorized the Oklahoma Veterans Administration to build a new medical center to replace the Talihina building.

The action by the legislature came after a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran died of sepsis at the Talihina Veterans Center after maggots were found in his body. Doctors said at the time, the parasites did not kill the veteran and attributed his death to the sepsis. A few months later at the same center, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran died by choking on a plastic bag in his throat.

Sequoyah County Times

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