Veterans Home groundbreaking set for Aug. 21

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 8/11/19

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services and several partners are continuing to finalize plans for the groundbreaking of the state's fifth veterans home in Bradley County.TNDVS Chief of Staff …

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Veterans Home groundbreaking set for Aug. 21

Posted

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services and several partners are continuing to finalize plans for the groundbreaking of the state's fifth veterans home in Bradley County.

TNDVS Chief of Staff James Amundsen has been in Cleveland twice over the past two weeks, and will return  again this coming week.

He was at the construction site Friday morning, meeting with Cleveland and Bradley County officials, and a number emergency service workers who will assist in managing security, as well as parking and traffic for the expected crowd.

Amundsen was accompanied by members of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board and TNDVS Information Officer Rachel Fogg.

State Veterans' Homes Eecutive Director Ed Harries could not attend, but the board was represented by Shannon McCann, director of Facilities and Construction Taylor Wyrick, and Marketing and public relations manager Melanie Cook

The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the construction site on Westland Drive in South Cleveland. Parking will be available at nearby West Cleveland Baptist Church, with shuttle service across Westland Drive to the ceremony.

City of Cleveland Public Works crews will be busy this week at the location, upgrading the roadway onto the property. They were at the site Friday, mowing and additional  cleanup.

Also attending Friday's meeting were Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll, and Assistant to the City Manager Brian Moran. Cleveland Assistant Recreation Director, and Urban Forester, Dan Hartman who was supervising the mowing and cleanup crew. 

Also in attendance were Bradley Veteran Services Officer Brian Huesterberg and Bradley County Assistant to the Mayor Lindsey Hathcock.

An earlier meeting, just over a week ago, "Was just a day trip, to meet with some of our Cleveland and Bradley County partners," said Rachel Fogg. That action continued Friday.

The earlier meeting included Cleveland resident and property donor Steve Williams.

Williams was intricately involved in the donation of 28 acres of property for the veterans home, and the final acceptance of the site by the state. Joining him in the donation were Thomas Williams and Robert Wright.

A number of dignitaries will be in Cleveland for the groundbreaking ceremony, and that list is still being compiled.

A big question, presented to Fogg and Amundsen, was whether or not Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will attend.

They said the governor is trying to clear his calendar to be able to attend, and that decision is expected this coming week.

A number of those involved in securing the $47 million in funding for a veterans home, over the past 16 years, have already received their invitations.

These include state Rep. Mark Hall, who provided the Banner with a copy of his invite.

Another early invitee was Gary Benefield who was the Bradley County Veterans Services director prior to Larry McDaris. Benefield  is now retired.

Benefield and the late John Simmons are generally credited with the initial idea of a veterans home in Bradley County, coming up with that suggestion around the turn of the century. Benefield left Cleveland for a position with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and is now retired and living in Florida. He plans to attend the groundbreaking.

Also coming to Cleveland for the ceremony will be Tennessee Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers and her predecessor Many-Bears Grinder. 

The new veterans home will be a resident-centered and individualized-care facility for qualified veterans. It will be a single-story, 108-bed intermediate and skilled care nursing facility, consisting of six 18-bedroom pods, interconnected by interior shared support spaces.

The number of pods and individual beds were modified, following a study of the state's fourth veterans home in Clarksville. Other veteran homes are located in Murfreesboro, Humboldt and Knoxville.

Future residents from the region will have access to a community center that contains therapeutic spaces, dining areas, activity rooms and resident-support offices.

Research shows nearly 50,000 veterans in the six-county area surrounding Cleveland. The Bradley County Commission and Cleveland City Council passed resolutions in 2003 for significant support for the facility, and have contributed more than $2 million each.

An anonymous donation of $3 million was pledged at the start, when Benefield served as Veterans Services officer. 

Local and state appropriations total almost $17 million of the $47 million in funding, in addition to private donations. Of this sum, $10 million was allocated from the state budget by former Gov. Bill Haslam.


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