Veterans home board picks site

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Selection of a 27-acre tract on Westland Drive in south Cleveland for a future Southeast Tennessee veterans nursing home is a step forward even though funding isn't in hand, officials said.

Members of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board voted Thursday for the site after inspecting three potential sites Wednesday.

"You know, as I do, that this is a 'win' site," said Joe Davis, Bradley County veterans service officer and a member of the state board, during the board's business meeting.

"John Simmons started this, and we are working to finish it up," Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Simmons, a longtime activist for veterans care in Tennessee, died last year. Mr. Davis replaced him on the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board.

The property, which was donated by local families, is appraised at about $1 million, officials said. Plans call for a 140-bed home costing about $21 million.

Bob Tuke, chairman of the veterans home board, cautioned that the selection of a site doesn't mean that construction is imminent. He said no work can take place until the 65 percent funding share from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in place.

The site still must be reviewed by the state's Real Property Management Office, said Tennessee Veterans Affairs Commissioner John Keys.

Steve Williams, one of three landowners who donated the Westland Drive site, told board members it is "shovel ready."

The other choices were a 14-acre county-owned site on Minnis Road and the former American Uniform Co. location on Parker Street. Board members said the Minnis site has low-lying wetlands. They said the Parker location is too small and razing the existing building would add to the cost.

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