The state already has put aside the money, and construction is just waiting for matching funds from a federal grant program. Last month, when Batemon learned the federal funds for the new $50 million facility would not be available until at least next year, he proposed getting a short-term loan from a local bank so that construction could start this year. After spending a few days in Washington, however, Batemon has had to back away from that idea. He now doubts that the federal money could be used to pay off the loan.
Batemon took the case to the members of the Alabama congressional delegation and brought home assurances of their support for the project, but he couldn’t speed up the grant process. He said the funding for the new VA Home in Pell City likely will come next fiscal year. “It is one of the high priority projects for our delegation,” he said.
State officials have said all funding must be in place before construction can begin.
In the meantime, Batemon is putting a bright face on the delay. The VA Home will stand across from the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital, north of Interstate 20, near the Jefferson State Community College campus. Batemon said the hospital could use the extra time to discuss possible contract agreements with the new VA Home, and the college could work out plans to provide classes for veterans at the new facility.
When it’s built, the new VA Home in Pell City will be the pinnacle of veterans’ care. Veterans Affairs officials say it will be a cutting-edge homecare facility with 254 private rooms and bathrooms — 174 rooms with regular skilled nursing beds and 80 assisted-living residences. The 27-acre site will provide plenty of green space, and amenities will include a barber/beauty shop, a coffee shop, a chapel and a Hall of Honor dedicated to members of the armed services.
No one likes to have to wait to provide better care, and veterans should not have to wait for the care they need. But once this new Veterans Home is built, everyone in the area, and indeed everyone in Alabama, can be proud of how we take care of our veterans.