QUINCY -- A bipartisan bill that could speed construction of one or more new buildings at the Illinois Veterans Home is being sponsored in the General Assembly.
“We’re ready to act,” said Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills. “We need a new, state-of-the-art facility.”
McSweeney is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park. Senate Bill 2308 and a prefiled bill in the House do not have a specific dollar amount for construction but would rely in part on finances from the Illinois Capital Development Fund. The project also would likely need a buy-in by the federal government.
Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a news conference at the veterans home on Wednesday that he also would prefer seeing new construction. A new housing unit for veterans could lower the risk from Legionella bacteria, which has led to 13 deaths and sickened dozens at the home since 2015.
Rauner said a task force will be formed to look at options.
McSweeney said committees and task forces take too long, and he does not want to wait.
“We need immediate action. Gov. Rauner should talk to
President Trump. He should talk to (U.S. Sen. Dick) Durbin” and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker Michael Madigan, McSweeney said.
New structures might replace Elmore and Kent infirmaries. Elmore has been in use for more than 50 years, and Kent has been plagued with mold problems.
There are no official estimates on what a new building would cost, but Fifer Infirmary opened for use in 2008 after construction costs of $5.5 million and an additional $750,000 in mold remediation after rain soaked the interior during construction.
Tom Cullerton, chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, helped conduct the joint hearing with the House Veterans Committee on Tuesday in Chicago.
“If we in the General Assembly knew additional funds were needed to improve living conditions and eliminate risk factors for Legionella at this facility, it would have been approved in a heartbeat,” Cullerton said in a statement.
“Let’s get to work and give our veterans the service and care they deserve.”
Rep. Randy Frese, R-Paloma, said he wants to see a proposal and a funding request from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I want to have the work done that establishes the path towards funding,” Frese said.