To best serve the military veterans of Southeast Alabama.
That is the purpose of a State Board of Veterans Affairs decision to proceed with a plan to build a fifth state veterans home.
The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs currently operates the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City, Tut Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville, William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette and the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home in Pell City. They collectively provide care to 704 veterans with a staff of some 900.
The unanimous decision in October 2018 by the State Board of Veterans Affair to build a fifth veterans home came after a 2018 feasibility study commissioned by ADVA to determine the long-term health care needs of veterans in the state. “The study determined that it should be in Southeast Alabama,” said City of Enterprise Communications Director Jason Wright July 22.
“Enterprise has always valued the presence of the soldiers stationed at Fort Rucker and the many veterans living in and near Enterprise,” said Enterprise City Council President Perry Vickers. “If we are fortunate enough to be selected as the site for the veterans’ facility, the city of Enterprise will embrace the veterans, provide them the best care possible and continue to give them all the honor and respect they so richly deserve.”
Enterprise Mayor William “Bill” Cooper agreed. “Our city takes pride in our military service members and this facility is a way for us to serve them after they have so valiantly served us,” he said. “We are fortunate to have a veterans’ facility planned for the Wiregrass and we hope to see it become a reality in Enterprise.”
ADVA plans are to build a single-story 182,000 square foot facility to provide skilled care for eligible veterans. Once at full capacity, the home is projected to employ approximately 250 people and the projected annual payroll—based on the average of the existing four state veterans’ homes—is from $7.5 million to $8.75 million, according to the ADVA newsletter, “The Alabama Veteran.”
The official Request for Site Selection Proposals was distributed July 15 in the designated service area that includes Coffee, Dale, Barbour, Butler, Covington, Crenshaw, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike Counties. Most areas within those counties are beyond a 60-minute drive time from a state veterans home, the feasibility study found.
The RSSP seeks a minimum of 27 acres of land to construct the $65 million 175-bed facility. The proposals received from municipalities and counties will be evaluated in terms of five factors, which include the size and location; transportation accessibility; workforce; specialized healthcare services within proximity of the site; and any additional relevant information.
In order to build the home, ADVA must apply for a federal Veterans Administration construction grant. The VA has a 65 percent match program that provides states with a funding mechanism for building skilled nursing centers with the state providing 35 percent of the funds.
As with any proposed economic development project, the specifics are “being kept under the radar,” Wright said. “But basically we want people to know that the City of Enterprise is definitely interested in bringing the newest state veterans home to Enterprise and Coffee County.”
Wright said that the City of Enterprise has filed the official notification to the Alabama State Veterans Homes in advance of the Aug. 2 deadline. “We are definitely working as a team towards presenting our best face forward to the selection committee.”
The feasibility study projected that 1,440 veterans would require a nursing home bed by the year 2045, according to “The Alabama Veteran” newsletter. “Currently, there are 704 beds in Alabama’s four veterans’ homes, leaving a 736 veteran nursing home bed deficit.”
All interested parties are required to let the ADVA know of their intent to submit a proposal by noon, Friday, Aug. 2, with the final proposals physically received by the department no later than noon Friday, Aug. 15.
Wright said the selection committee will narrow the possibilities down to three communities. The final site selection will be made by the State Board of Veterans Affairs with a formal vote at a date that has not yet been determined.
In order to be eligible for consideration, the actual proposal document is not to be longer than 30 pages, Wright said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to what will best serve our military veterans and our proposal, we feel confident, shows that a facility located in Enterprise and Coffee County will best serve the veterans of Southeast Alabama.”