Plans to bring a veterans home to Mohave County may finally start coming to fruition next year and State Sen. Sonny Borrelli says Lake Havasu City is a possible location.
Although the Arizona State Legislature is still working to get a particularly contentious budget passed for Fiscal Year 2021-22, Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said the status of the veterans home for Northwest Arizona is in good shape. He said the $25 million he has requested for the project is included in Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed budget which has already been released, as well as the current working budgets in both the House of Representatives and the State Senate.
“Now it is in the budget bills so we just have to be able to pass the budget,” he said.
Borrelli said the Veterans Administration identified Mohave County as one of five locations in Arizona for a veterans home several years ago. Since then veterans home facilities have been constructed in Yuma, Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff.
“Mohave County is the last one on the list,” Borrelli said. “So now is the opportunity since we have the federal funding already in place and the state funding is available. It is time to get this thing done once and for all.”
Borrelli said the facility in Mohave County would follow the same process as the other four facilities in the state.
That process starts with identifying land that can be donated to the Arizona Department of Veterans Services to serve as the location for the veterans home. Borrelli has previously said a landowner in the Kingman area has agreed to donate 30 acres for the facility, but earlier this year an alternative option emerged. Borrelli said he spoke with a landowner in the Lake Havasu City area who has also agreed to donate land for the facility.
“I like the site in Havasu better than Kingman, just because of the amenities and the close proximity to a hospital and stuff like that,” Borrelli said. “But that will be determined by the Arizona Department of Veterans Services – they are the ones who make the ultimate decision.”
With land available for the veterans home, the next step is for the state to agree to pay for 35 percent of the construction cost, which would be covered by Borrelli’s request for $25 million in next year’s budget. The remaining 65 percent of construction would be paid for by the federal government. Borrelli said the federal government has already set aside $500 million for such projects nationwide and there is still money available, but that pot of money is currently set to expire in Sept. 2022.
“If you don’t use it you are going to lose it,” Borrelli said. “Now is the time to do it.”
Ongoing operations for the facility will also be paid for by the federal government. Borrelli said that money will come from the VA benefits of the veterans who are staying in the facility.
Borrelli said he expects the project to move quickly if and when it is included in the state budget. He said Veterans Services will complete site surveys of the potential locations in both Kingman and Lake Havasu City and pick where they want to put the veterans home once the project is in the budget. Borrelli said either location is “basically shovel ready,” so there shouldn’t be a lot of grading or groundwork required. He said the federal government also has basic designs and plans it uses for these types of buildings which will also help speed up the pre-construction phase.
“We could be groundbreaking next year,” he said.
About the veterans home
The veterans home will serve as an assisted living facility for particularly vulnerable veterans.
“This is not like Club Med, this is senior assisted living for the most indigent – they have no family and they have nothing,” Borrelli said. “So it is for the most vulnerable. The VA pays for that healthcare, but instead of putting them in a private facility we let veterans take care of veterans. This way they will get a better level of care.”
Currently the facility is expected to include about 100 beds.
Borrelli said the veterans home will also be an economic boost to the community. He said it is expected to employ about 100 people and the facility will likely purchase various goods and perishable items locally.
“It is going to be a good thing for the economy with employment and also retail goods and services,” Borrelli said.