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EDITORIAL: Decision needs review

Muskogee Phoenix - 12/20/2018

Dec. 19--Oklahoma Veterans Commission members made a terrible mistake when it awarded a veterans center to Sallisaw instead of Muskogee.

The mistake is so egregious that commission members should fully and publicly explain their decision.

This is not just sour grapes on our part because Sallisaw was chosen for the $100 million construction project and the possibility of 250 jobs.

No, we can understand not every decision will go our way.

But when the decision flies in the face of reason, we are left with the conclusion that something smells rotten.

The Oklahoman reported results that can best be described as unusual, and at worst, suspicious.

Commissioners rated three sites -- Sallisaw, Muskogee and Poteau -- on 36 criteria.

One of the criteria was proximity to health care.

Two commissioners rated Muskogee and Sallisaw the same for proximity to a federal VA hospital, according to the Oklahoman.

That's ludicrous.

The VA hospital closest to Sallisaw is the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center -- located in Muskogee!

Commissioners were supposed to grade pass-fail on whether a city had conducted environmental site studies and included them in its proposal.

Muskogee included environmental site studies in its proposal, but only two commissioners gave Muskogee a full score.

An environmentally cleared site would mean faster construction.

We have nothing against Sallisaw. Commissioners voted 7-1 in favor of Sallisaw. We don't know how every one of the criteria was graded.

But we believe Muskogee did not get full credit for its proposal.

The commission was supposed to vote on what made the most sense for our veterans.

Muskogee was an excellent choice.

Commissioners did not see that. And if commissioners' conclusions were reasonable, we would be, too.

But there are too many questions to let this go.

But some apparent irregularities in voting -- particularly in assessing proximity to a federal VA hospital -- needs to be explained and more information released.

Commissioners should reconsider the whole process to ensure veterans are at the forefront of their thinking.


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