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Dunning Veterans Home To Open in 2019 — More Than 3 Years Late, Rauner Says

By  Heather Cherone and Alex Nitkin | February 15, 2017 4:25pm | Updated on February 17, 2017 10:19am

 Work on the facility restarted in July after it was halted by the state budget impasse.
Work on the facility restarted in July after it was halted by the state budget impasse.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

DUNNING — A facility in Dunning designed to house veterans suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and dementia won't open before 2019, approximately three years behind schedule because of the state budget impasse.

Gov. Bruce Rauner earmarked $4.4 million in start-up funding for the facility in his 2017 spending plan released Wednesday.

The stopgap budget deal reached in June included $8.5 million to get construction restarted on the project near Oak Park Avenue and Irving Park Road that stopped in June 2015.

“It’s great news to me, that’s awesome news to me," said 38th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato. “A couple years down the road, that stretch going to look pretty good, between the school, the field and the homes — you’ll have people living there, playing sports there … what was once an eyesore salt mountain is going to be a really nice stretch.”

Eleni Demertzis, a spokeswoman for Rauner, said the governor's proposal would fulfill the state's obligation to the project.

But State Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Jefferson Park, Dunning) was less enthused about governor's promise, calling it a single bright spot in a thicket of proposed cuts to immigrant protections, after school programs and health services.

"It's nice that after sitting for two years as an empty shell, it's finally a priority for him...it never should have been a casualty of this budget impasse," Martwick said. "But it's sort of like he's saying 'Here's this thing you'll like, but don't pay attention to what the other hand is doing.'"

And without a proposal that the democratically-controlled legislature can get behind, constituents shouldn't expect shovels to hit the ground any time soon, he added.

"I'm excited [Rauner] has heard the call that it needs to be finished, but if he's not living up to his constitutional obligation to present a balanced budget, I can't see how that gets us anywhere," Martwick said. "Without a roadmap, the reality is that it's probably not going to happen."

The 200-bed veterans home — the first of its kind in Chicago — was originally scheduled to open in July 2016, before it got caught in the budget crossfire between Rauner and the Democrats who control the General Assembly.

Construction on the facility on the grounds of the former Chicago-Read Mental Health Center and adjacent to the Read-Dunning Conservation Area, a 23-acre oasis of wetlands and woodlands being restored to its natural state, began in October 2014.

While a federal grant will cover 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.