ODVA to build vets home in Lebanon

The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs last week announced that Lebanon has been chosen as a new site for a 100- to 150-bed veterans’ home.

ODVA Director Jim Willis said the Linn County proposal was the best among five that the department received as it sought a location for the facility.

“The site evaluation committee did painstaking work, visiting each of the five sites and reviewing the excellent proposals that were submitted,” Willis said. “While all the sites were outstanding, Linn County’s proposal rose to the top, and we are excited to work with the community to build the second veterans’ home.”

The complex, called Patriots Place, will include 10 to 15 one-story housing units, an administration building, community center and recreational facilities. Each unit, about 7,500 square feet, will serve 10 veterans.

The home will be constructed on 10 acres of the Samaritan Health Sciences Campus west of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. Construction should begin in fall 2012.

The original proposal, a 250-bed facility, would cost some $50 million, with Linn County paying $15 million.

One of the requirements to make the proposal was to provide 35 percent of the funding, said County Commissioner Roger Nyquist. “In order for this project to go forward, there will be a levy on the ballot in the fall.”

With the decrease in the number of beds, Nyquist said, the levy request should be lower than the initial estimate of 25 cents per $1,000 of valuation.

The levy would be in place for 10 years.

“I think that for the county and residents of the county, it means a couple of things,” Nyquist said. “First and foremost, it provides a needed resource in the area for veterans and families of veterans.”

He has heard from veterans and families in the area that the resource is needed within the area, Nyquist said. The other component is that if this project starts in a timely manner, it will help jump start activities on that medical campus.

The economic development gains should offset the losses if this doesn’t happen, he said. “We need to turn this economy around.”

While the tax levy would compress proportionately other temporary local levies, such as the county law levy and city police and library levies, under tax limitations, Nyquist said, the effect was minimal, less than 1 percent under the original proposal.

The county’s other option is a bondy levy, which would be levied above the $10-per-$1,000 limitation for general government, meaning property owners already paying taxes at the limit would see a tax increase.

“I personally favor a plan tht does not increase people’s property taxes who are already at the maximum tax,” Nyquist said.

Factoring in the impact to the local economy, the proposed levy is worth it, he said.

“Anything that happens within the region is going to benefit the people who live within that region,” said Brian Hoffman, economic development director with the Sweet Home Economic Development Group. It will ultimately provide more jobs for Sweet Home residents and provide indirect benefits to Sweet Home.

“Wealth and job prosperity in Lebanon provides wealth and job prosperity in Sweet Home. It’s only 13 miles away.”

City Manager Craig Martin also said the facility would be good for Sweet Home.

“Any time you land something like that with the (original estimate of 400 jobs) will benefit Sweet Home. We anticipate there will be a benefit to us, to the community, in terms of jobs.”

It also will benefit the local economy, he said, since it is likely that some folks working there may want to move to Sweet Home for the small-town environment.

The site evaluation committee recommended that a third veterans’ home be built in Roseburg to cover Oregon’s southwestern region. The ODVA will need legislative approval to build a third veterans’ home.

The committee, consisting of ODVA employees and outside experts, considered a variety of criteria for locating the new home.

When reviewing Oregon’s veteran population demographics, the committee recognized the need to adjust its original plan by “right-sizing” the second home and planning for a third in Roseburg.

“I believe the committee’s proposal is the best plan to meet veterans’ needs,” Willis said. “We will begin working with the legislature immediately to gain approval for a third home.”

The ODVA also received proposals from Douglas County, Jackson County, Klamath County and Coquille.

“The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has told us that Oregon needs 800 skilled-nursing beds for veterans in this state,” Willis said. “Oregon has one veterans’ home €“ in The Dalles with 151 beds.

“We are committed to ensuring that we meet the needs of our senior veterans and will continue to partner with the Legislature and communities for the care of Oregon veterans.”