VA home site selection moves closer to reality

Site selection for a new state veterans home to be built in Southeast Alabama moved closer to reality after

the State Board of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Home Committee met last week.

Twelve separate entities interested in being the site of the state’s fifth veterans home presented their proposals at meetings before the board in Montgomery Oct. 28 and 29.

According to ADVA Public Information Officer Belinda Bazinet, the committee is in the process of scoring the applications received.

Bazinet said that after the scoring process is complete, the board is expected to select finalists and plan site visits prior to making a recommendation to the ADVA board.

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. The next scheduled quarterly meeting of the Alabama Board of Veterans Affairs is Jan. 3, 2020 at the ADVA Commissioner’s Conference Room in Montgomery.

The board also has the option of calling special called meetings pending any decision, Bazinet said.

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.

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.

“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 when the city’s application was submitted in August. “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 had agreed as the two discussed the city’s application in August. “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 at that time. “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.

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.”

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