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Haskell possible site for veterans homePublished October 20, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
BENTON — The Saline County Economic Development Corp. has received a letter from the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs office, saying a site near the Arkansas Health Center in Haskell is still in the running as the location of a new Arkansas Veterans Home.
Eddie Black of the SCEDC said it is a good sign.
“We are still in the running; we are still optimistic and believe we have a good site,” he told the Tri-Lakes Edition on Oct. 8, when the letter from ADVA Director Cissy Rucker was first received by Shane Broadway, chairman of the county’s economic-development organization.
“The Veterans Affairs office asked for more information beyond what we have given them before they visited the site in August,” Black said. “The Veterans Home Task Force had first looked at 40 sites around the state and picked four finalists. They have eliminated the other three sites, but that doesn’t mean we are the only one left in the running.”
During this stage of the site-selection process, several cities around the state are expected to offer alternative sites in those areas where sites have already been rejected, Black said.
“We are not offering any other site; we think with this 20 acres, we have the best one already,” he said.
On Tuesday, Black said the economic-development group has been working to provide the information requested by Veterans Affairs officials.
“It is set up like an Excel document, and we are filling in the cells,” Black said. “The information has not changed, but it is in greater detail. The last time, all they wanted was a one- or two-page report.”
“We have until the end of the month to complete the form and get it back to them. The letter said the VA wants to make the decision by the end of the year.”
The original Veterans Home Task Force was chaired by state Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, and included three members of the Arkansas Senate and three members of the Arkansas House of Representatives, including state Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton.
In addition, the task force included 16 other people concerned with veterans affairs in the state, including Arkansas Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Terry Callahan and Mary Erdman, former commander of the American Legion in Arkansas. Both expressed that the Saline county site was their top choice at the time.
“There would be synergies with the Arkansas Health Center, which already has 650 employees involved in long-term and acute care,” Black said, adding that the director of the health center supports the site selection. “The land is already owned by the state, and the Department of Human Services is willing to work on a long-term agreement about the property.
Meanwhile, Haskell city officials have also offered to waive water- and sewer-improvement fees, and would build a new fire station near the facility.
“We received nothing negative in the visit to the site or from the request for more information,” Black said. “I think we have an honestly good chance that we have the best site with everything they want.”
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 247-6129 or at email@example.com.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.