War Veterans Home maintaining April, 2007 opening date

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 4, 2007


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Then come the wild weather, come heat or come labor shortage, vets will stand by each other at the War Veterans Home on Airline Highway in Reserve next June.

Plagued by setbacks since its groundbreaking in May 2005, the $23 million War Veterans Home in St. John Parish, originally estimated to cost $17 million and be completed in December 2006, will be finished next April and will begin taking in war veterans the first week of June, according to Department of Veterans Deputy Assistant Secretary Homer Rodgers.

The facility was fortunate to be unaffected by Hurricane Katrina, but a severe labor shortage followed soon afterwards. Hearn Construction, the company in charge of building the facility, needed to move staff across the country to help with the build but was still short-handed about 50 people per day in fall 2006.

When the facility reaches a level of substantial completion in April, the Department of Veterans Affairs will start moving $1.2 million of equipment into the building. Once the necessary permits have been acquired they will begin to employ staff, said Rodgers.

Between 30 and 40 veterans will be granted housing when the facility initially opens and it will ultimately support 152. The home will eventually staff 150 employees, 57 of whom will be hired before June.

The original design of the 93,000 square foot facility remains intact, said Rodgers. The home will feature a computer lab, library, arts and crafts building and a fishing pond complete with a pier and a gazebo, constructed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The home will have 156 beds available for the 152 veterans, including 39 intermediate care beds, 39 acute care beds, 31 self-help beds and 47 mentally impaired beds.

The Veterans Administration will pay for 65% of the total cost, with the other 35% being covered by the state of Louisiana. The 25-acre build site was donated by St. John Parish.

&#8220Louisiana takes care of its veterans,” said Rodgers.