BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - Veterans in Bradley County and surrounding areas are one step closer to having a top of the line, state-run veterans home. There are still a few more hurdles to jump.
The closest VA homes for vets in our area, are in Knoxville and Murfreesboro, and there is a waiting list for those. That is why Bradley County leaders are pushing to have a new one built there.
The Bradley County Veterans Service Office recently secured a new grant, that will help the new home become a reality.
The future site of the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home is located off APD 40 and Westland Drive in Cleveland. "We just felt that we really needed one here to serve the veterans that have honorably served their country and are now in need of long term care," says Larry McDaris.
McDaris is the director of the Bradley County Veterans Service Office. He says since the early 2000s, there has been a major push to build a veterans home in the Tennessee Valley.
"People now have to go to Knoxville, have to go to Murfreesboro. And if they live in this area, it's hard on the families to go visit, because it's a pretty good trip," he says.
McDaris says there are 8,000 vets in Bradley alone, part of the 50,000 in Hamilton, McMinn, Meigs and Polk counties. "Normally it takes about 10 years, it seems, to get a home."
And Bradley County is nearing the finish line.
He says the federal government has a priority list for which veterans homes across the country get built first. There is one in Montgomery County, Tennessee that just got approved for federal funding.
Next on the list is a home in Kentucky, then Bradley County. "They did not get offered funding. Nor did we," he says.
But McDaris says that just means the Bradley County project is next in line. "We're hoping to be right up there close to the top on the FY 2013 list," says McDaris.
Helping the progress is the fact Bradley county is almost done completing a "federal checklist," before it gets the green light and funding.
It secured the 28 acres of donated land in 2010, raised the required 35 percent of the total cost for the project, thanks to a donor, the city and the county, and recently got a $60,000 grant to have the land environmentally tested.
"It's a really complicated procedure," he explains. The last hurdles the county has to jump are testing the land and finding an architect. Veterans Affairs has already drafted the plans.
The only hiccup? The federal priority list can change from year to year. The 2013 list comes out later this year, so it is a bit of a waiting game.