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Byrd dedicates VA laundry facility

April 17, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd dedicated a $4.9 million laundry facility Friday afternoon at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg.

Byrd, D-W.Va., told an audience of 150 people that West Virginians have always served at the forefront of the nation's wars and deserve the finest medical facilities and support services possible.

"Like the thick beds of flowers at summertime that spring up wild in our hills and hollows, the spirit of patriotism grows and blossoms naturally in our state," Byrd said.

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Byrd said there are people who call him the "Pork King" on Capitol Hill for sending federally funded projects to his state, but he really is bringing West Virginians' tax dollars back to the state.

"I'm glad to take a bow anywhere they call me the 'Pork King,'" Byrd said.

The new laundry center is not just a room full of washers and dryers.

The 13,000-square-foot facility is air-conditioned and contains state-of-the-art laundry equipment that reduces the number of workers needed to perform some tasks.

The soiled laundry comes in at a wide loading dock and is carried by an overhead conveyor to washing machines, dryers and clothes presses.

The center is equipped with computerized monitoring devices to track the lines through the washing system.

The laundry center provides service for the VA hospital, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the West Virginia Air National Guard.

The new laundry facility began operation on March 25.

The original laundry center was built in 1943 when the site was part of the Newton D. Baker Army Hospital.

Dr. Francis J. Citro Jr. presented Byrd with a plaque with his photo on it that will be displayed in the laundry facility, thanking Byrd for his help in obtaining federal funds for the project.

"That's a nice-looking man," Byrd quipped.

Citro also presented Byrd with a plaque belatedly honoring him for obtaining $76 million in federal funds in the 1970s to construct the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg. The plaque will be displayed in the medical center's front lobby.

Byrd gave a wide-ranging speech that started with the opening shots of the Revolutionary War and led to the Scripture teachings of his adoptive parents.

"I'm not the Christian right, I'm not the Christian left. I'm just a West Virginian who was brought up by those two old people to believe in the Bible," Byrd said. "We don't know a great deal of the mystery of life or the mystery of death, but anyone with common sense can believe there is a creator in the back of creation."

After a tour of the facility, Byrd met with local reporters and said he wants the federal budget surplus spent on highways and other major projects.

Byrd said the federal government promised Appalachian states 30 years ago that highways would be built into their interior corridors.

Byrd said more needs to be done, including building a highway through West Virginia's center that would open the state up for more tourism and business development.

Byrd said he plans to seek $2.9 billion in funding for the West Virginia corridor so that highway could be built in the next 12 to 15 years.

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