$11.5 million needed for local veterans’ home

Building a veterans’ home in nearby Arlington will require $11.5 million in local funds over the next year, organizers said at the town board’s June 25 work session. The funds are expected to come from the city as well as area businesses, churches, organizations, and individual citizens.
Project organizers asked the town’s leaders to set an example and commit to providing $1 million by July 2016 in city funds and local donations.
In preliminary discussions, the mayor and board are considering a town donation of $150,000 to $250,000 and a possible commitment to raise more through local donors.
They plan to discuss the numbers at the July board meeting.
The West Tennessee Veterans Home Inc. (WTVH) non-profit has taken on the challenge of reaching the $11.5 million goal with help from Arlington and other sources.
Arlington is being asked to open its wallet because the facility is likely to be built there.
“When they pick a site for a potential facility, they want to see community support,” said Don Swogger of WTVH.
The veterans’ home should be a financial windfall for the town. The $70 million construction project (not including the land acquisition) is expected to generate more than 240 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of more than $7 million.
Projections also show the purchase of more than $4 million annually in goods and services.
Many of those employees may move to Arlington and add to the town’s tax base, Swogger said. And restaurants and retail stores should spring up to meet the needs of more residents and visitors to the veterans’ home. The facility has a planned project life for more than 30 years.
A property of about 40-45 acres at the location of the town’s old Arlington Development Center was chosen as the preferred site for the project. The property is located behind the Arlington Sports Complex on Memphis-Arlington Road west of Tennessee 385 and north of Interstate 40.
The land is currently owned by the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and was eligible to be considered for the project after the Arlington Development Center’s lawsuit was settled in 2013.
The site selection is not yet final. The state must still approve it after environmental testing to ensure the site meets environmental regulations and other requirements.
Final approval will be granted by the State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management (STREAM) division of the Department of General Services.
• Why it’s needed
Holly Swogger, WTVH president, told the board why the facility is needed: The tri-county region of Shelby, Tipton and Fayette has more than 70,000 veterans (more than any other area in the state), and they don’t have access to a nearby veterans home.
Such homes provide skilled nursing services for those who need long-term care or rehabilitation services. Currently, the nearest such facility is more than an hour’s drive away in Humboldt, limiting patients’ access and families’ visitation.
The veterans’ home in Arlington will be designed to house 144 U.S. military veterans in a dozen 12-person “pod” arrangements.
Currently, there are Tennessee State Veterans Homes in Murfreesboro, Humboldt and Knoxville.
The future Brigadier General Wendell H. Gilbert Tennessee State Veterans Home in Clarksville is expected to open this summer, tentatively at the end of August.
See more information at tsvh.org/index.html.
Funding details
Don Swogger said the challenge is the requirement to raise 35 percent of the cost locally, or about $25.5 million. Some of that amount is already committed:
• $10 million, already committed by the State of Tennessee
• $2 million, already committed by the Shelby County
• $2 million, a challenge grant approved by the Memphis-based Plough Foundation
• $11.5 million that remains to be raised
Another $45.5 million will come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In earlier interviews, a contact with the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs estimated land costs at $410,000.
WTVH must show that all the funding is available by July 2016 for construction to begin in 2017. If that target is missed, WTVH will lose its place in the line of municipalities vying to get a veterans’ home in their area. Currently, there are three other cities behind Arlington, waiting for their chance, and one of them already is fully funded.
These projects take a long time to plan, get approval and raise funding. The application for this home was submitted in August 2004.
Currently, veterans’ home projects are planned for every other year from 2017 (for the one in Arlington) through 2025.
“If we lose out in 2017, we don’t know where the next window is going to appear,” Don Swogger said. “So we feel we’re working on a short leash.”
Project 100
One fund-raising tool is the WTVH’s “Project 100.” It asks, “How much is a veteran’s service to our country worth?” If it is worth at least $100, then businesses, churches and other organizations are asked to pledge $100 for each veteran in their midst.
Brochures and signage are available for Project 100. Find more details at veterans-home.com.
“We’re putting our heart and effort and toil and tears into this project,” Don Swogger said. “We’re asking you to find out how you can support this project.”