published Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Veterans home a priority for Bradley County funds

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Finance Committee has recommended that the proposed Cleveland/Bradley County State Veterans Home and the public water fund be considered priorities for the county's Healthy Communities Initiative.

The Healthy Communities program is intended to support capital improvements to "the health care, wellness and quality of life of the citizens of Bradley County," according to the county's government website.

On Wednesday, the panel voted 5-0 to put the recommendation before the full County Commission for consideration. If passed by the commission, the recommendations will be considered by the HCI board.

Despite a local commitment of $7 million to $3 million from an anonymous private donor and $2 million each from Bradley County and Cleveland -- funds are needed for the planned 108-bed veterans home, said Larry McDaris, director of the Bradley County/Cleveland Veterans Service Office.

Preliminary expenses such as site preparation, environmental studies and traffic studies are considerable, he said of the planned facility, which will be located on a 30-acre tract on Westland Drive in South Cleveland.

McDaris said he estimated that work on the proposed veterans home could start in late 2015 or 2016. The state won't put funding toward more than one veterans home project at a time, and a Clarksville, Tenn., home is about to get underway, he said.

The Healthy Communities board turned down a $30,000 request for veterans home funding last winter during its last grant cycle. Commissioner Mark Hall championed a failed attempt to get the County Commission to go against the board recommendation.

The veterans home project received $60,000 in Healthy Communities funding the year before that.

The public water fund is an important component of Bradley County services, helping county residents offset city water hookup costs when their wells fail or go sour, said Commissioner Ed Elkins, chairman of the Finance Committee.

The Finance Committee expressed a desire to limit its recommendations to county services and steer away from including private nonprofit groups.

"[When] we start get into playing favorites with private organizations and saying one is more worthy than the next, that goes against the grain of the grant process in general," said Commissioner J. Adam Lowe, who is vice chairman of the County Commission and the Healthy Communities Initiative board.

Project grant requests by private nonprofit groups are not always created equal, he said.

"So you never want to give on who it is, but what it is," Lowe said. "We've had some very reputable, worthy nonprofits request money from us for very not well-written and thought-out projects."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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