AP NEWS

Bill to save Talihina Veterans Center may not be considered

January 22, 2019 GMT

TALIHINA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma’s House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee probably won’t hear a bill that aims to end a $100 million state construction project and keep a veteran’s center in a small southeastern town.

Committee chair Rep. Tommy Hardin and others advocated for relocation of the Talihina Veterans Center, saying the aging facility needs costly repairs and can’t employ sufficient personnel because of its rural location, The Oklahoman reported.

“We worked pretty hard the past four years to try to get that changed,” Hardin said of the bill. “I’m not planning on hearing it.”

On Jan. 17, Rep. Jim Grego of Talihina introduced the legislative measure to stop the center from being closed.

“My goal when I ran for state representative was to try to bring jobs into southeast Oklahoma,” said Grego. “I can’t sit by and watch them disappear.”

Supporters of Grego’s bill assert that repairing rather than replacing the facility would save taxpayers a substantial amount of money.

“I don’t see why the state has $30 million to do it. I’d rather see them put that into education or rural health,” Grego said. “The problems are many down here. Let’s take that $30 million and spend it on something that matters.”

The Senate side of the Capitol could be even more unfriendly to the proposed legislation. Sen. Frank Simpson, chair of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, is an outspoken ally of moving the veteran’s center out of Talihina.

“I’ll tell you right now, the bill’s not going to go anywhere,” Simpson said.

The Legislature passed a bill signed by former Gov. Mary Fallin last year approving the veteran center’s closure.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com