Herald-Whig: Federal funds catch up on upgrades at Illinois Veterans Home

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded $4.156 million to the state of Illinois to cover the federal share of water system upgrades completed at the Illinois Veterans Home in 2016.

“This funding will be a needed boost to Quincy, but there is more work to be done,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in a statement about the funds.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth also pledged to help deliver on a commitment to bring federal funds to the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy.

“Our veterans, and their families, deserve the very best, and this funding is a step in the right direction,” Duckworth said.

More than $6.4 million in upgrades were made to the home’s water purification system after a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak claimed 12 lives and sickened more than 50 others in 2015. Legionella bacteria has reappeared each year since the initial outbreak, and it was a contributing cause of a death this year at the home.

Durbin and Duckworth have toured the 132-year-old home and pledged their support for new residential facilities and a new water system.

The Illinois budget signed into law this month includes $53 million for the first year of improvements at the home. Funds also have been identified to buy the former Sycamore Healthcare building near the Veterans Home campus, where some residents might stay while new buildings are constructed.

Rauner has called for reconstructing buildings at the home at a cost estimated at more than $200 million. He said a state-of-the-art care facility of “several hundred” beds and installation of new water pipes on the campus should qualify for a 65 percent reimbursement from the federal government. He hopes to see construction start this fall if possible. The Illinois General Assembly agreed to a “design build” project that will save months off completion time.

Durbin and Duckworth have criticized Rauner for taking too long to reach the reconstruction phase at the home.

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