While the project is still on track, it is switching to a set of rails locals do not want to travel and will most likely reapply to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the grant.
Project Manager Clinton R. Camp, of Parsons Brinkerhoff in Nashville, said, “We’re looking at the likelihood of reapplying for the federal VA grant to help construct the project.”
Camp met recently with local veterans home council members in the Bradley County Courthouse.
The meeting included Taylor Wyrick, director of Plant Operations, Tennessee State Veterans Home Board; Cid Heidel, co-chair, Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council; Bradley County Veterans Services Director Larry McDaris and Veterans Services Officer Joe Davis.
While the news sounded bad, he said, “I can honestly stand here and tell you with a straight face, this is not bad news. We could have an architect’s rendering put together by Christmas. We have the Lewis Group. They’ve been selected and they’re ready to go.”
The home is at the point where local dollars are about to be spent and “if this doesn’t end up being the site for any remote reason, we’re investing dollars we won’t be able to recoup. We’re trying to be as responsible and judicious with those dollars as we can because they are not technically ours,” Camp said.
The reasons for reapplying are due to inflation and changes in the design. The cost has grown from $21 million in 2007 to the low $30 million range.
“The reasons for that (reapplying) are twofold,” Camp said. “It’s the increase in materials. On average, long term, we have seen a 3 percent annual rate of inflation.”
Also, the 108-bed facility will be single occupancy with each room having its on restroom.
“It’s more home-focused. The bedrooms are bigger. The bathrooms are bigger. You have more seating areas, more living rooms, more dining rooms and more kitchens,” he said.
Due to timing, 2015 is the earliest the project could be delivered for construction because the home in Clarksville is ahead of Bradley County. Construction on the home is due to begin July 1 and completed in 14 to 15 months. Once Clarksville is built, another 18 to 24 months is needed for licensing and certification.
“It’s a perfect storm, or ideal scenario to reapply now because at the longest, it might be two or three years before we see funds available,” Camp said.
“We can only build one home at a time and we have an 18 to 24 month operational window after that project comes on line before we can deliver another project.”
He said reapplying is in the best interests of the state, because the initial application was for a lower amount than for what a home could be successfully delivered. Instead of a 65-35 shared grant, it had grown into a 50-50 federal and state shares.
“Reapplying will allow us to equalize the leverage we would have in the grant,” he said. “We’re increasing the footage and we’re increasing the quality of the project. We want to get back to a 65-35 match.”
The federal government funds 65 percent of the cost. The effort has local commitments for the local 35 percent share in the form of $3 million from an anonymous donor, and the city of Cleveland and Bradley County have each committed $2.2 million.