Vets home construction eyed for 2015
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Feb 19, 2013 | 987 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A proposed veterans home project could be offered funding based on the Veterans Administration priority funding list, but the local effort might not be in a position to accept.

Bradley County Veterans Service Office Director Larry McDaris said his office received the funding list on Thursday. The VA has $217,395,000 to correct safety deficiencies, remodel existing homes and build new homes. After funding all of the higher-ranked projects, the VA would have $13,658,305 available for the local home.

“The VA share for our project is listed at $13,037,181 which would leave over $300,000 for other projects,” McDaris said.

However, the cost of the Cleveland Bradley County State Veterans Home has increased from $20.12 million in 2007 to the low $30 million range. The federal government and local supporters share the cost of construction on a 65/35 percent basis. The federal share, based on the 2007 application, was $13.037 million. The city of Cleveland and Bradley County each committed $2.2 million and an anonymous donor pledged $3 million to cover the local share.

With the new price tag, the local share increases an estimated $10 million to cover the difference. Under the new scenario, the cost share would be closer to 50/50 if the funds were accepted.

“The state may need to reapply to the VA for a grant since the current cost of our home has exceeded that originally estimated by more than 10 percent due to inflation and a change in design,” McDaris said. “This reapplication will probably be done now as the state project officer does not believe it will impact receipt of VA funds when we are ready for construction. It is better to go ahead now rather than wait until later, which would be more likely to impact timing.”

Also, the state of Tennessee cannot build two state homes in one year.

Project Manager Clinton R. Camp, of Parsons Brinkerhoff in Nashville, said earlier in the month that due to timing, 2015 is the earliest the project could be delivered for construction because the home in Clarksville is ahead of Bradley County. Construction on that home is due to begin July 1 and should be completed in 14 to 15 months. Once Clarksville is open, another 18 to 24 months is needed for licensing and certification.

“It’s a perfect storm, or ideal scenario, to reapply now because at the longest, it might be two or three years before we see funds available,” Camp said in a Feb. 1 meeting in Cleveland. “We can only build one home at a time and we have an 18 to 24 month operational window after that project comes on line before we can deliver another project.”

Even if offered conditional funding, McDaris said a VA checklist would have to be completed within 180 days, which he does not believe is possible since the state has not accepted the property. Site testing is complete, a Draft Environmental Assessment is out for public review and a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

“A designer has been selected and we hope to be able to have the site ready to turn over to the state sometime this year. Overall, I believe we remain on track and prospects for a home here remain bright,” he said. “It will just be a matter of time. The designer could have an architect's rendering put together by Christmas. In the meantime, we will continue to do what's required locally to be ready.”

The local home ranked 71st within the VA priority List Group 1 — those projects having state matching funds. Priorities 1 through 12 were safety issues; 13 through 65 were renovations and 66 through 74 were for new construction.

Within the nine new construction projects, the local home is ranked sixth.

An 88-bed facility in Walla Walla, Wash., was first in new construction projects on the FY 2013 list at rank 66. Last year that project ranked 94th in Priority Group 6 — projects having no state matching funds.

This year, Montgomery County was ranked 67th. Hampton and Fairfax, Va., topped the new construction list in FY2012, but they are not on the new list.

Richmond, Va., a 40-bed addition was ranked 68th. Remaining new constructions on the list include: Radcliff, Ky., 69; Salem, Ore., 70; Cleveland, 71; Truth or Consequences, N.M., 72; Butte, Mont., 73; and Marshalltown, Iowa, 74.