T WO bills overwhelmingly approved by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law last week by Gov. Bruce Rauner are expected to expedite the rehabilitation of the Illinois Veterans Home campus in Quincy.
One, Senate Bill 3128, consolidates the design and building processes under state law. It will allow state officials to hire one company for both architectural plans and construction, a move intended to save the time it takes to design and then seek bids for a builder and to streamline the process for tapping into federal matching funds.
The second, House Bill 5683, makes the recently purchased Sycamore Healthcare Center part of the Veterans Home. The state bought the former nursing home at 720 Sycamore last month, and renovation work already has begun to prepare it to house veterans during upcoming construction work on the main campus.
Importantly, these moves continue a string of positive developments in recent weeks aimed at solving problems that have plagued the home since 2015.
The governor and state and federal lawmakers should be commended for following through on their commitment to invest in critical infrastructure improvements and safety measures at the home, which serves veterans from more than half of the state's 102 counties.
Rauner's administration has outlined a five-year, $230 million plan to update the 132-year-old campus. His senior adviser, Michael Hoffman, is overseeing four major projects connected to resolving issues linked to outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease that have led to 13 deaths and dozens more being sickened.
The first was buying and beginning renovation of the former Sycamore Healthcare Center, work that is expected to be completed within three months. This came after passage of a state budget in May that included $53 million for the Veterans Home.
Next, engineers are developing plans for a new campus water loop. That work, part of a master plan to be completed by the end of the year, will replace old plumbing to eradicate the Legionella bacteria that grows in water and can sicken when it's inhaled in water vapor.
Moreover, architectural designs for a new state-of-the-art facility on the main campus are expected to be completed by next summer. Preliminary discussions have centered on a 250- to 300-bed nursing care building.
"We hire one developer and they are responsible for making sure we meet budget, we meet time line and that the building they end up building ends up being a building that's easy, safe and efficient to operate and maintain," Hoffman said.
Additionally, the state is working with the city of Quincy on finding a new city water source as part of the plan for the new water distribution system at the home.
Clearly, much work remains and diligence will be required.
However, these efforts, along with others before them, will help the Veterans Home better provide for the care and well-being of those men and women who served their country, the best possible outcome.