“We are real happy with the progress,” said Admiral Clyde Marsh, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs in Montgomery. “Construction is on track, on schedule.”
Marsh was in Pell City Thursday for his regular briefing on the project’s progress with representatives from Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham and Doster Construction of Birmingham, who are overseeing the project construction.
Marsh said all structures of the 254-resident veterans home are under construction, however, some are further along than others.
“We will finish the buildings in sequence, but we will open and occupy them all at one time,” he said.
The veterans home, a $50 million construction project, is on 27 acres adjacent to the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital north of Interstate 20. The home totals 240,000 square feet.
“This is a new concept, a neighborhood or green concept,” Marsh said. “It is built on the style of apartments or condominiums.”
Marsh said Alabama is one of four states with veterans homes under construction using the new model.
“It is built in neighborhoods,” he said. “Each neighborhood has three houses.”
Marsh said each house features a dining room, kitchen and living room, as well as 14 private rooms. Each room has a private bath and windows.
“There are two Alzheimer’s neighborhoods,” he said. “Each of those neighborhoods has two houses with 12 bedrooms per house. Those are also secure facilities.”
Marsh said construction is scheduled to be completed around May of next year.
“We are predicting to be ready and open sometime around June 2012,” he said. “There are things we have to do after construction is completed before we can open, such as inspections and certifications.”
Marsh said four of the six building structures are complete, although work on the inside is still needed.
“The first neighborhood is the furthest along,” he said. “They are finishing up the sheetrock and will start shingles for the roofing this week. The mechanical and generators are being currently set in the next week.”
Marsh said the parking area should be completed over the next month. Landscaping will take place toward the end of the project.
Kim Justice, the veterans home coordinator for the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, said the project is expected to create 300 jobs.
“We will hire a management company to manage the facility, and they will handle hiring for the veterans home,” she said.
Justice said a management company is expected to be hired after the first of next year.
“We haven’t started taking applications yet either,” she said. “We expect that to begin at the end of this year or the first of next year.”
Justice said when the application process opens, veterans may go to the veterans service office in their county or download the application from www.va.alabama.gov. To qualify, the veteran must be an Alabama resident for the past 12 months. Wartime veterans have priority over peacetime veterans.
“This home is the fourth facility in Alabama and the largest,” she said.
Justice said the other three facilities in Montgomery, Bay Minette and Alexander City can accommodate 150 veterans each, although none have assisted living accommodations. The new veterans home features 80 assisted living beds.
Marsh said there are waiting lists for each facility, with approximately 250-300 veterans on waiting lists between the three current facilities.
“There are no current plans for an additional veterans home,” he said. “We are doing things one step at a time.”
Justice said a feasibility study several years ago recognized the need for the new veterans home facility currently under construction.
“This new home is filling a gap and will reduce the waiting list,” Marsh said. “In the future, if we see a need we will pursue it then (the feasibility of building another home).”
Justice said the new facility is currently for veterans only, no spouses.
“This will be a magnificent facility,” Marsh said. “It’s getting there.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.