The Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council to review funding plans

photo Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall

IF YOU GOWhat: Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home CouncilWhen: 6 p.m. todayWhere: Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, 225 Keith St. SW, Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council meets today to discuss how and when local money will be needed to break ground for a proposed 108-bed living facility in Bradley County.

Work on the veterans home, which has waited more than three years to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, may start sooner than many officials anticipated.

"All of a sudden, things are moving faster than we expected," said Larry McDaris, director of veterans services for Bradley County.

Whenever the project launches with design work, at least a portion of $7.2 million in promised local funding from the city, county and an anonymous donor will need to be delivered, said McDaris.

He estimated the local startup costs may amount to as much as $2.1 million, requiring $700,000 each from the county, city and the private donor. However, the director said he is waiting for word from state officials regarding an official figure, which he expects will be much smaller.

Previously, the veterans facility panel has discussed the possibility that the project might not actually start for another year or two, according to normal fluctuations in the funding priorities the VA assigns to homes across the country.

The Bradley County facility moved up the funding list recently after moving down earlier this year.

Some officials have expressed skepticism regarding a significant leap forward in an expected groundbreaking date.

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"There could be urgency, but history tells us otherwise," said Bradley County Commissioner Adam Lowe in a recent meeting.

"Even though all the ingredients are in place doesn't necessarily mean we are going to move up on the list," said Commissioner Mark Hall, who co-chairs the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council.

One of the ironies of the situation, said McDaris, is that he has relatively little control over a situation that requires a coordinated effort between the various funding entities.

In the meantime, the proposed $23 million facility is as ready as it can be, short of actual funding. The VA will provide 65 percent funding, with local dollars making up the difference.

The project also received a boost this spring when $3.1 million in state funding was budgeted for the facility in the new fiscal year.

The home, which McDaris described as a community of individual dwelling areas, will be built on 27 donated acres on Westland Drive, near APD 40 in southern Bradley County.

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