Herald-Whig

Herald-Whig view: Opinions by both Quincy veterans, residents valuable in making proposed changes to facility

Posted: Aug. 29, 2018 9:20 am Updated: Aug. 29, 2018 11:05 pm

THE Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs is again seeking community input to help with the development of a master plan for a renovated Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy.

The department has made available a confidential, 10-question survey, which can be accessed at surveymonkey.com/r/illinoisvetshomequincy. Planners say answers will be factored into a master plan for the 210-acre camps by architecture and engineering firm HOK and seven subconsultants.

The posting of the survey comes six weeks after the IDVA hosted an open house at the Veterans Home to solicit public feedback on improvements that could be made to benefit residents and staff at the oldest veterans home in Illinois, which has been associated with Legionnaires' disease outbreaks that have led to 13 deaths and dozens more illnesses since 2015.

We urge residents, family members of past and current residents, Veterans Home employees and all Quincyans to take a few minutes to offer constructive ideas that could be used to help create a state-of-the-art campus to serve veterans for generations to come.

The survey asks respondents to describe their perception of the Veterans Home and the importance of the facility being integrated into the Quincy community, list concerns with the campus, and select goals and offer ideas for the master plan expected to be completed by next summer.

In addition, respondents are asked if they are aware of community organizations interested in partnering with the Veterans Home to better serve veterans in the central part of the state and if the facility should be considered a destination for veterans' care across Illinois.

Respondents also are asked if they have a friend or family member currently living at the facility, what three words would best describe the future of the Veterans Home and if they would like to be part of a mailing list for master plan updates.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration has outlined a five-year, $230 million plan to upgrade the 132-year-old campus. The first step involved buying the nearby Sycamore Healthcare Center and upgrading the complex so it can house veterans during construction on the Veterans Home campus, as well as for future uses.

The state also is developing plans for a new campus water loop that will replace the Veterans Home's antiquated plumbing system, which many health experts believe has contributed to the difficulty in completely eradicating the Legionella bacteria that has periodically resurfaced in recent years.

Moreover, the state also is working with Quincy officials on a $9 million project, based on the most recent estimates, to find a new well-based water source for the city and, in turn, the Veterans Home. The city now gets its water from the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile, work is proceeding on architectural designs for a new state-of-the-art facility on the main campus. One focal point of the administration's master plan involves a proposed 250- to 300-bed nursing care facility.

Keeping communication lines open and involving the Quincy community in the future of the Illinois Veterans Home is a positive approach by the state and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and we urge them to continue doing so.

Equally important, Quincyans and those associated with the Veterans Home -- past and present -- should take advantage of every opportunity to help shape the future of a facility that has played a critical and valuable role in the community since 1886.