DUNNING — A partially built veterans facility in Dunning designed to house veterans suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and dementia will not open as scheduled in January 2017, state officials said Tuesday.
Originally scheduled to open in July, the veterans home — the first of its kind in Chicago — got caught in the crossfire between Gov. Bruce Rauner, and the Democrats who control the General Assembly, and is now on hold indefinitely.
Construction stopped in June, and while officials initially said the budget dispute would push its opening back just six months, the facility will not be ready in January 2017 as scheduled, officials said.
For months, the construction site has been fenced off, with the half-built husk of the building visible from Irving Park Road and Oak Park Avenue. It is on the grounds of the former Chicago-Read Mental Health Center and adjacent to the Dunning-Read Conservation Area, a 23-acre oasis of wetlands and woodlands being restored to its natural state.
Allie Bovis, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Capital Development Board, which is overseeing construction of the facility, blamed the now-indefinite delay on "the Democratic majority in the Legislature’s failure to pass real structural reforms and a balanced budget."
Work on the facility would immediately restart under a bill introduced Jan. 13 by State Sen. John Mulroe, D-Jefferson Park.
“I am sick and tired of politics getting in the way of our state providing the basic services that are required by our constitution,” Mulroe said in a statement. “Letting the construction of a veterans' home get caught up in this budget mess is unacceptable.”
The bill, which must be approved by the General Assembly and signed by would allow the state to spend $60 million lawmakers set aside for the facility several years ago. Crews began building the facility in October 2014.
Rauner refused to allow the money set aside for the facility to be spent unless lawmakers agreed to adopt his agenda designed to spur business growth in Illinois. Democrats refused, and the impasse has yet to be resolved.
While a federal grant will cover the cost of 65 percent of the cost to build the facility, the state must cover some start-up costs, officials said.
The five-story facility at 4250 N. Oak Park Ave. will feature single rooms with private bathrooms as well as common dining and recreation areas for its residents, officials said. Forty-four beds will be set aside for veterans with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.
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