published Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home could get 2014 start

TENNESSEE VETERANS NURSING HOMES


• Murfreesboro -- 1991

• Humboldt -- 1996

• Knoxville -- 2006

• Cleveland -- Proposed

• Clarksville -- Proposed

• Memphis -- Under discussion

Source: Tennessee Veterans Homes

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- In a best-case scenario, construction could begin in 2014 for the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home, a state official told the council seeking to bring it here.

But Ed Harries, executive director of Tennessee State Veterans Homes, along with Taylor Wyrick, from the Tennessee Veterans Nursing Homes board, also told the council Thursday evening there are plenty of variables that could change that.

Any health and safety issues at U.S. Veterans Affairs' current facilities across the nation would rise to the top of the priority list immediately, they said. And obtaining the necessary environmental and historical studies might take longer than anticipated.

The VA's funding priority list could change, too, they said, although that is not as likely this year as last.

Last year Bradley County ranked 47th and Montgomery County/Clarksville ranked 42nd on that list. Both are expected to advance upward when the VA priority list comes out after Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal funding year.

"There's a lot of interest in this building," Harries said. He has had three people ask about applying for administrator, he said.

Bradley veterans affairs officer Joe Davis said he has been asked about getting on a patient waiting list, too.

Harries said it is too early to begin such a list.

"When we start breaking ground, I would start that list," he said.

Larry McDaris, Bradley County Veterans Services director, said the anonymous donors of $3 million toward the local 35 percent matching funds are still on board through 2012, but there's no guarantees after next year unless progress can be shown.

"There's a lot of environmental and cultural/historic studies that have to be done," McDaris said.

To cover some of that expense, he requested $60,000 from the county's Healthy Community Initiative. The list of HCI grants for this year are on Monday's Bradley County Commission agenda for approval.

The initiative uses investment income from a portion of the sale of Bradley Memorial Hospital in 2005 for projects that promote health, wellness and quality of life in the county.

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about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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