Legislators seek state cash for Vets Home

Sean C. Morgan

The cost of the Veterans Home in Lebanon is shaping up to be about $4 million higher than originally planned, and all of Linn County’s state legislators are supporting a bill seeking up to $10 million from the Oregon Lottery to cover the additional expenses and potentially offset a local tax Linn County residents agreed to pay to help attract the home.

“The Vet’s home in Lebanon is about $4 million over scope,” said Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, House District 17. “We’re trying to get this covered by state funds.”

House Bill 2680 would cover that cost – about half of the $12 million already borne by Linn County taxpayers in a local option levy.

Sprenger is the chief sponsor of House Bill 2680 along with Andy Olson of Albany; Phil Barnhart, who represents the rural area southwest of the Sweet Home city limits along Highway 228; Sen. Betsy Close of Albany; and Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis.

Local matching funds were part of the site selection process. While Linn County voters agreed to pay a share of the construction costs locally, the project was split into two parts, with a second facility planned for Roseburg. The Oregon Legislature agreed to cover Douglas County’s local share of the construction costs from the Oregon Lottery.

The 150-bed facility, 86,500 square feet, is under construction by the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs at an estimated cost of about $34 million. The home is located on 10 acres north of Pioneer School in Lebanon, adjacent to the Health Sciences Campus and Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. The complex, called Patriots Place, includes one-story housing units, an administration building, community center and recreational facilities. Each unit, about 7,500 square feet, will serve 10 veterans.

Sprenger said the legislators are pursuing $10 million in light of the legislature’s decision two years ago with Douglas County.

“The co-chair was from Roseburg,” Sprenger said, and spending money in Linn County is fair. “I’d like to access that money for us. That’s to help compensate Linn County voters for their contribution.”

Like other Linn County families, hers also voted for the local option levy to support the home, she said. “We’re fighting to get Linn County’s share.”

The 10-year local option levy is for 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Linn County provided the matching funds, which are supposed to be replaced through the local option levy.