OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved funding to relocate the veterans center in Talihina to Sallisaw, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday.

The cost of the project is about $60 million, said Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Executive Director Doug Elliott. Of that total, the state will pay $21 million, he said.

The agency will attain the funding through cost savings, he said.

The 175-bed facility will be on the south side of Interstate 40 near Sallisaw Municipal Airport and will employ about 300 people, Elliott said.

Employees currently at the Talihina facility will be given the opportunity to transfer to the new location, Elliott said.

Six cities, including Muskogee and Poteau, bid on the project before Sallisaw was chosen by the Oklahoma Veterans Commission, said Shane Faulkner, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman.

Sallisaw offered as part of an incentive package 90 acres of land at an estimated value of $780,000, according to the agency.

Officials decided to relocate the center in part due to an inability to staff the Talihina facility adequately, Elliott said.

Ninety-two veterans currently live at the Talihina center, and most of their families will be closer to Sallisaw, Elliott said. He projected that the new facility could be open in 2½ years.

The effort to relocate the facility was controversial. A bill to stop the relocation failed to secure approval in the Legislature this session.

Barbara Hoberock

405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @bhoberock

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