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The Central Arkansas Veterans Home under construction in North Little Rock plans to welcome its first residents before the end of 2016, the state's top veterans affairs official said Tuesday.

Matt Snead, director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, told members of the Arkansas Veterans Commission during its Tuesday morning meeting that the first of eight residences at the home is expected to open by October or November 2016.

The $24 million, cottage-style retirement complex includes eight 10,000-square-foot residences that together will house 96 veterans and eligible dependents. Each residence will offer individual rooms and restrooms for 12 people, as well as a den, office, kitchen, garage, wraparound porch and dining and living rooms.

The other seven residences will open on a roll-out basis after the first residence is inhabited and accredited.

The complex is being built by Craig Custom Construction on a 31-acre site in North Little Rock on what used to be Emerald Park Golf Course.

"It's going to be a state-of-the-art, top-notch home," Snead said. "It's going to be a really nice atmosphere."

Snead also told commission members that a business plan for running the home had been approved.

The plan calls for a hybrid course of action, with state administration and direct care provided by state employees. Other services, such as physical therapy, will be contracted out.

The department hopes to hire a nursing home administrator in the next few months, Snead said. The hiring process will utilize a task force that involves department employees, a commission member and others.

"We want a high-quality candidate," Snead said. "We want that person on the ground well before ... the home is complete so that that person can be a part of executing the business plan. ... That position is going to be the center of gravity. That position is going to be key to the success of that home. We are looking far and wide."

Commission member Tom Thomas echoed Snead's comments on the importance of hiring the right nursing home administrator.

"We better look at the qualifications and follow up with references ... and make sure that we get the right [person] for this thing," Thomas said.

The Central Arkansas Veterans Home is being built with $7.5 million in state funds and a $15.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The remaining amount, about $900,000, was collected through donations to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.

The home's design also includes a 16,000-square-foot community building that will have a chapel, salon, physical therapy room, meeting space and administrative offices.

Lawmakers started making plans for a new veterans home in 2012, after they learned that the Little Rock Veterans Home had deteriorated to the point of being uninhabitable and that the cost to renovate it was estimated at $10 million. That home, located since 1980 in a long-closed school for the blind on Charles Bussey Avenue, was closed in June 2012.

The new complex will be the second state-run veterans home in Arkansas, with the other being the Fayetteville Veterans Home.

State Desk on 10/21/2015

Print Headline: Vets home to receive tenants in '16, VA says


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