“Anytime we can do anything positive for veterans, it’s a great day,” said Adm. Clyde Marsh, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs.
Marsh said numerous agencies worked together to help make the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home a reality.
“Gov. Bob Riley has been one of the staunchest supporters of veterans we have had, and Sen. Del Marsh helped guide us to this location,” he said. “The outstanding State Board of Veterans Affairs always does what is best and what is in the best interest of Alabama veterans.”
Marsh said Pell City is home to all the necessities of a great city, with great local support from the mayor and council, St. Clair County Commission and St. Clair County Economic Development Council.
“The Economic Development Council donated 27 acres for this site,” he said. “The state of Alabama and the veterans thank you for your philanthropy and patriotism.”
Marsh said the VA home’s architect, Williams Blackstock Architects, have incorporated green technology in a new type of veterans nursing home built on a neighborhood style.
“It does not have a traditional institutional feel to it,” he said.
Marsh said the new nursing home will feature more than 200,000 square feet, including a grand entrance and portico with a drive through area for pick-up and drop-off. A two-story domiciliary will house 80 residents, with a living room and dining room on each floor.
An Alzheimer’s neighborhood will feature two houses with 12 bedrooms each, a living room, dining room and kitchen.
Three neighborhoods will feature three houses each. Each house will accommodate 14 residents with private bedrooms and bathrooms. The bedrooms feature a window with a view, and residents share a common dining area, living room and kitchen.
The Town Center is a large, open area with big-screen TVs and fireplaces, providing a gathering place for residents and their families to socialize.
A chapel, library, barber and beauty shop, sports bar, receiving area, large kitchen and major dining area, and veterans staff offices are also included.
“The $41 million project was awarded to Doster Construction Co. of Birmingham, and we anticipate project completion in the spring of 2012,” Marsh said. “I want to thank all the hardworking staff. You can see we are really excited about this project.”
Ken Rollins, vice chairman of the State Board of Veterans Affairs, said this project has “been a long time coming.”
“We have had great support,” he said. “May God bless all of those providing care for our veterans today and those who will provide care in the new home.”
St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said there is so much pride in men and women who are willing to serve their country.
“I’ve yet to run into a former serviceman who does not know their service number,” he said. “It swells me up with pride that our country is willing to invest and provide for those who served.”
Batemon said veterans gave up their youth and their health, and now the country is giving back to them.
“What a great country,” he said. “I want to say ‘welcome home’ to all the veterans who will get to be welcomed home to this new veterans home.”
Don Smith, executive director of the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, said even though the weather was stormy, it was a great day for Pell City, St. Clair County and Alabama.
“I am very proud to have this project here,” he said. “It is one of the biggest projects to take place here.”
Pell City Mayor Bill Hereford said they couldn’t have picked a better name for the new VA home.
“Col. Robert Howard served his country with great distinction,” he said.
Howard was born in Opelika, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War. Howard is considered one of the nation’s most decorated soldiers.
Hereford said the groundbreaking signifies a new direction for the St. Clair County community.
“We are being trusted with the care of our veterans,” he said. “We pledge to care for them at the highest level, and pledge to care for them every day in every way.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.