QUINCY -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker promised Friday during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Illinois Veterans Home to honor the service of living veterans.
Pritzker, making his second trip to Quincy since he became governor in January, repeated his commitment to rebuilding and rehabilitating the 210-acre campus. Work on what Pritzker called "a brand new, state-of-the-art building" are expected to begin this year and be complete in less than three years.
"We put into our capital bill a significant investment in building a new facility -- $230 million for here at the Quincy Veterans Home facility to ... keep our veterans safe and secure," Pritzker said.
Work on campus construction and improvements was prompted by repeated bouts of Legionella bacteria that have resulted in 13 deaths and more than 60 illnesses at the Veterans Home since 2015. State and local health officials, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the naturally occurring bacteria is extremely difficult to remove from aging water pipes. Rather than retooling some of the oldest residential buildings at the home, a new building cluster has been designed to better meet the needs of veterans.
Housing for residents during construction has been provided in Lester Hammond Hall at 720 Sycamore. The state bought the former Sycamore Healthcare building for $650,000 and did $17 million in upgrades before moving residents from buildings that will be demolished this year.
Pritzker visited Hammond Hall during March and pledged continued support for the home in Quincy, the largest of four that the state operates.
On Friday, Pritzker praised Quincy as well as the home and said the construction work will bring "tens of millions" in wages and economic benefits for the area.
"I believe Quincy is an important part of the state. It's the capital of the region if you ask me," Pritzker said.
Pritzker previously said a task force is looking at safety standards for water and other inputs at all of the veterans homes in Illinois. That effort was put together after an illness at the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno recently was attributed to Legionella.
During a news conference, Pritzker said he wants to see the families of veterans who died due to Legionnaire's disease get settlements. That work is currently in the hands of the Illinois attorney general's office.
Linda Chapa LaVia, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, also spoke at the Memorial Day service, calling it "a reverent day" to honor veterans who have died. A veteran herself, Chapa LaVia also said the state and federal government owe a debt to living veterans.
The home's annual picnic was held after the end of the Memorial Day ceremony, with residents and guests eating under tents with live singing.