“We can believe in better for how state government serves Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “We can believe in better when it comes to the education of our children, and we can believe in better when we talk about a stronger, healthier economy for our state.”
State Rep. Kevin Brooks said things are definitely getting better after the governor announced the inclusion of $23 million for the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home in Brooks’ 24th District.
“We are very blessed that the funding for the new veterans home in Bradley County was included by the governor in the 2012-13 budget proposal,” Brooks said. “I am very grateful to serve on the House Finance Ways and Means Committee, and to have been a part of the team who put this veterans funding plan together.
“Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey, our East Tennessee friend in Nashville, has shepherded this project through for us from his first days in the new administration.”
State Rep. Eric Watson, who represents Bradley County in the 22nd District, said many young soldiers are returning to the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan with medical conditions that will affect them the rest of their lives and a veterans home in Bradley County is much needed.
“I want to thank the Bradley County Commission and the Cleveland City Council for passing resolutions that supported the fight for the much-needed funds to build the home,” Watson said. “I want to thank Steve Willams, Thomas Williams, Robert Wright and their families for donating 27 acres of land for a home.”
The federal government funds 65 percent of the cost. The effort has local commitments for the local 35 percent share in the form of $3 million from an anonymous donor, and the city of Cleveland and Bradley County have each committed $2.2 million.
As stated on the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home website, “Work began on a state resolution to support a VA home in Bradley County in late 2007. The result was passage of House Resolution 531 on May 6, 2008.”
The resolution was sponsored by Brooks and urged the governor to support the construction of a state veterans nursing home in Bradley County. The resolution passed 97-0.
At last count in 2007, there were 45,861 veterans in Bradley County and the surrounding counties of Hamilton, Polk, McMinn, Meigs and Rhea. Veterans in the age group 65 to 84 now number 16,394. That count is expected to increase to 17,944 by 2014.
“This funding for the veterans home is truly the culmination of the life’s work of Mr. John Simmons,” Brooks said. “John is smiling down on us from heaven right now … and telling all of the combat buddies he can find inside those pearly gates. From my very first term in office, I can still remember John Simmons walking the halls of the Legislative Plaza, working on this project.”