But, the local accolades came with good reason.
Longtime advocates of a new veterans home in our hometown — most notably, the Bradley County Veterans Affairs office — probably roared the loudest in response to their brothers’ good fortunes in Montgomery County.
For years, a modern veterans home in Clarksville has been ranked slightly higher than a proposed Bradley County facility on the heavily watched list of funding priorities maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The ranking was based on Montgomery County’s application date from 2004, three years ahead of the local request.
Now that the backers of the Middle Tennessee home have satisfied a gauntlet of requirements — local funding, property, and state and federal fiscal support, among others — the long-awaited Clarksville project can move forward. A few symbolic shovels of dirt at the recent Montgomery County groundbreaking signaled the eagerly anticipated, physical start of the needed initiative.
Construction will begin in August with opening scheduled for the first quarter of 2015.
By rule of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board, only one new facility at a time can be constructed in the state. Obviously, this is due to limited funding, staffing and other resources. But to a Bradley County jurisdiction that has worked tirelessly, and waited patiently, for a new Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home, a few more months is little to ask.
Hence, when Clarksville and Montgomery County leaders meet with state and federal leaders again in early 2015 to snip the ribbon on their new veterans home, Bradley County can expect to be breaking ground on its own a very short time later.
Certainly, nothing is a given and local veterans affairs leaders are taking little for granted. But in this interim of the remaining wait, Bradley County Veterans Office advocates like Larry McDaris and Joe Davis can breathe easier knowing their long and arduous task is seemingly approaching fruition.
Surely, their efforts have been phenomenal, but — and they would be the first to acknowledge it — they have not worked alone. Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission members have committed to $2.2 million each to help match the state and federal money. An anonymous donor has pledged $3 million and long ago 30 acres of property at 1940 Westland Drive were donated to the cause by Steve Williams, Thomas Williams and Robert Wright.
Current plans call for the Bradley County facility to be a structure of some 98,000 square feet with 108 beds. It will offer intermediate and skilled levels of nursing care for local veterans. The facility, access roads and parking footprint will occupy about 10 acres on the tract of land.
On the downside, project delays, design changes and inflation since the original 2007 application have increased the local veterans home cost from the original range of slightly more than $20 million to an undetermined figure somewhere north of $30 million. How this will impact shared funding levels remains to be confirmed, but we do know state government leaders stepped in to help Montgomery County meet the rising costs for the veterans home in that community.
Work remains to be done. But so very much has been done already.
Now that light at the end of this winding tunnel has been sighted, we urge local leaders to keep the faith. Spring 2015 is not so very far away.
And when Montgomery County residents open the doors to their new veterans home, yet another Bradley County door will open as well.