Cid Heidl said during a scheduled bi-monthly meeting of the organization that the schedule has been stretched out so far for so long that the process is frustrating at times, and some people in casual conversation express doubt the facility will ever get built.
“Our schedule has been strung out so long it gets frustrating, and then it gets complicated, and that’s what has happened to us,” Heidl said. “It takes a lot of people helping out on our fundraising projects, city and county officials and an untold number of others getting involved.”
He said the home is very close to becoming a reality sooner than later, but the key is where the project ends up on the Veterans Administration priority-funding list.
“There’s so much in national politics and elections going on,” he said. “We just don’t know. It’s a matter of waiting and seeing and hoping, but we’re the closest we’ve ever been in five years. But it has taken [the efforts of] everybody” involved, he said.
Heidl made the remarks after Bradley County Veterans Service Director Larry McDaris presented a status update on the home to council members.
McDaris said it has been one meeting after another between July 20 and Wednesday with city, county and state officials, and attorneys and accountants representing the anonymous donor of $3 million.
“Probably most of my time has been spent working on trying to get documentation,” he said.
McDaris credited Tennessee Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder as one of the many people who has taken personal interest in the home.
“She has been unbelievably helpful and personally involved in dealing with the donors, and thank goodness, stepped forward,” McDaris said. “She has established a relationship with them and been very attentive.”
He said state officials are optimistic a window of opportunity exists since the home in Montgomery County was funded. There was only one home between that home and Bradley County.
“I know the donors, as will we, be very disappointed if things don’t work out, but there’s no telling what’s going to happen next,” he said.
At this point, he said, all memorandums of understanding and letters of intent between the donors, city, county and state have been signed, and it is agreed the county will be the designated funding agency.
Also, the city and county have committed to allocate a total of $510,000 for the design fee.
The public can show support for veterans through the purchase of vanity license plates.
The plates bearing the logo, “Proudly supporting those who served” are still available from Bradley County Veterans Services Officer Joe Davis. The cutoff date was extended from June 30 to Dec. 31. Proceeds from the sale of the new plate will help support programs at the future veterans homes in Bradley and Montgomery counties.
The new plate is available on the condition that 1,000 are pre-ordered before it will be manufactured. There are no eligibility requirements to purchase the plate depicting, from behind, two military personnel saluting and fading into an American flag.
Fifty percent of the $35 cost will be equally distributed between the two veterans homes; 40 percent will be designated for the Tennessee Arts Program and 10 percent to the Tennessee Highway Fund. All money will be refunded if at least 1,000 plates are not sold.
For more information on the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home or veterans services, please call Davis or McDaris at 423-728-7100; or visit their office in the Bradley County Courthouse.