18 Mar Veterans Care Facility Could Open in 2022
- By Coy Ferrell Times Staff Writer
- Mar 17, 2020 Updated Mar 17, 2020
Construction on a long-planned veterans care facility in the former Vint Hill Farm Station area is set to begin next month. The 128-bed Puller Center will be a state-operated nursing home for military veterans and could be ready to begin accepting patients in 2022.
Steven Combs of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, which will operate the facility, presented updates about the project to the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors at a March 12 work session.
The facility, located between Vint Hill Road and McIntosh Drive in the Vint Hill Economic Development Area, will be organized into 16 “households” in an effort to make the setting “as homelike as possible,” said the VDVS presentation. Three levels of care – skilled nursing, memory and short-term rehabilitation – will be offered at the center, which VDVS estimates will employ about 200 people.
Combs said that Fauquier County proved an ideal location for the facility, emphasizing that planners took into consideration the community surrounding potential sites. “You think of Fauquier County and what it has to offer as a community,” he said, “we don’t build in a vacuum. We hope that [the Puller Center] becomes a center of the community, and that the community feels ownership.”
Combs told supervisors that the “amazing package from the Fauquier County Office of Economic Development … checked every box [and] really was hands down the winner.”
Bill Keys, the service officer for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9835 (Warrenton) and VFW district 8, said that planning has already begun to provide amenities and resources for the Puller Center’s future residents. “A lot of people in this area have a sympathetic heart for veterans,” he said, adding that VFW and other local volunteers plan to arrange donations of televisions, DVDs and books for the facility’s residents.
According to Combs, a combination of funding uncertainties and design changes delayed the start of construction on the facility, which was originally scheduled to be completed in 2019.
VDVS originally applied in 2010 for a federal grant for a Northern Virginia care facility but did not receive funding. In 2016, Virginia state funds were made available for the Northern Virginia facility along with one in the Hampton Roads region. Later that year, VDVS selected the Vint Hill site along with one in Virginia Beach. In 2017, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Fauquier site, but changes to funding and the design itself delayed the beginning of the project until now.
In 2018, the federal Veterans Affairs relaxed guidelines stipulating certain design requirements, allowing VDVS to redesign the facility to, among other things, change the number “household” structure from 10 buildings housing 12 patients each to 16 buildings housing eight patients each; reduce the staff-to-resident ratio from 1:10 to 1:8; add a chapel and activity rooms, and create secure interior courtyards hallways between buildings.
In late 2019 VDVS received a $34 million grant for the Vint Hill project from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs; the grant is matched by state funds, making the budget for the facility about $68 million.
“The challenge was,” Combs told supervisors, “because we were still on the list for VA funding, we had some pretty strict guidelines we had to follow.” Summarizing the design changes after the presentation, Combs said: “We were able to make a good design even better.”
Keys thanked the Virginia state government, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe in particular, for funding the project in full when the federal government did initially not step in, a measure Keys said prompted the federal Veterans Affairs department to move more quickly to fund long-term care facilities in Virginia and elsewhere. “Putting politics aside, at least he was fighting for the veterans,” Keys said of the former governor.
Holder Trumbo (Scott District), who represents the district in which the facility will be built, said simply during the work session: “I am very, very glad to see it going ahead.”
Source: Coy Ferrell at [email protected]