Federal funds for the new Veterans Administration home project have been released.
“Today we have received some magnificent news,” said Enterprise Mayor William “Bill” Cooper said April 7. “The Homes Committee of the Alabama Board of Veterans Affairs met this morning and announced that they have been awarded a $39 million construction grant by the U.S. Veterans Administration, which will help build the long-term health care facility here in Enterprise.
“This is great news because it means we’re getting closer to breaking ground on the project,” Cooper said. “We expect the groundbreaking to happen later this year with construction to begin very early in 2022. We will look forward to the home opening in 2023.”
It has been 15 months since Enterprise was chosen as the site of the fifth veterans home in the state at the Alabama Board of Veterans Affairs meeting held Jan. 3, 2020 in Montgomery.
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.
ADVA plans 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.
The official Request for Site Selection Proposals was distributed July 15, 2019 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 sought a minimum of 27 acres of land to construct the $65 million 175-bed facility. The proposals received from municipalities and counties were evaluated in terms of five factors, which included the size and location; transportation accessibility; workforce; specialized healthcare services within proximity of the site; and any additional relevant information.
The Veterans Homes Committee reviewed 12 site proposals submitted by jurisdictions in the Wiregrass Region based on five factors—favorability of the plot of land proposed; transportation accessibility; workforce availability; specialized healthcare services within proximity of the site; and additional factors identified by the proposer, according to a news release from the veterans’ affairs board following the vote.
The Enterprise facility will be located on 108 acres off Highway 51 just north of Yancey Parker Industrial Park.
“We can only see this as a blessing, a win-win situation for everyone,” Cooper said. “This project puts people to work, adds to our local economy and best of all, allows our community to give back in some small way to a group of dedicated Americans who have sacrificed for us and this great country where we live.
“Veterans from this community and all over the state were there when we needed them,” he added. “We are elated that Enterprise, with its long-standing patriotic philosophy, can now be there when they need us.”
Cooper said that veterans are deserving of the best and most convenient healthcare possible. “And we’re happy to play a small role in ensuring they get good healthcare,” he said. “We’re also thankful that we were able to work with the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs on this project.
Cooper said that the Enterprise site was chosen largely because of the considerable veteran population here in Coffee County—approximately 7,000. “Studies done during the selection process indicate that the county, and Enterprise in particular, will see significant growth in the veteran population in coming years.
“We started the wheels in motion immediately upon learning we had been chosen after a lengthy and competitive selection process,” Cooper said. “The pandemic slowed things down a bit but make no mistake, Enterprise has been continuing to work toward the day when we can break ground and get construction started.
“The ADVA has also been working hard to make that day possible,” stressed. “The VA leaders have been working with Williams Blackstock Architects in Birmingham on a design.
Cooper said that the ADVA will have its next board meeting in Enterprise on July 9. “At that time, they will present the selected design of the home so we are looking forward to seeing what this wonderful new facility will look like,” he said.
The ADVA is seeking nominations through June 14 for a name for the facility. The nomination form for submitting proposals is available on the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Website at www.va.alabama.gov or by calling the ADVA at (334) 242-5077.
The ADVA 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.
“We have lots to look forward to in the coming weeks and I expect that developments will begin to happen quickly and frequently for the next couple of years as this monumental project progresses,” Cooper said.