Thanks to growth in the Kentucky Transpark, a suitable site for a Veterans Administration skilled nursing facility may have been found, and that could mean a long-awaited nursing home for military veterans in Bowling Green will soon become a reality.
The Inter-Modal Transportation Authority that oversees the Transpark – a nearly 1,200-acre industrial park in northern Warren County – voted Friday to donate a tract of about 25 acres to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as a site for what will be the state’s fifth nursing home for veterans.
It’s the second parcel of land offered by the ITA after it agreed in 2015 to donate acreage in the Transpark as an inducement for the KDVA to build one of its facilities in Bowling Green.
The first – near the Alpla plant on Technology Way – was roughly 20 acres and would have been more in the heart of the heavy industry located in the Transpark.
Ron Bunch, president and chief executive of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, said the new site is in a newly acquired portion of the Transpark and is behind the Crown Holdings Inc. aluminum-can manufacturing plant being built on Mizpah Road.
“The VA felt like this site was a better fit, and it’s slightly larger,” Bunch said. “They wanted it a little more secluded.”
The donated acreage could be another piece of a puzzle that local officials have been trying to assemble for nearly a decade.
In March 2020, Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 24 allocating $2.5 million in state funds for design and preconstruction of a veterans nursing home planned for Bowling Green.
That seemed to move closer to the groundbreaking stage a skilled nursing facility for veterans that the late Robert Spiller and other military veterans and public officials have been pushing for since 2012.
The Kentucky General Assembly in 2017 passed a resolution for $10.5 million in state bond funding needed to build the $30 million facility.
The rest of the money must come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To make that happen, the General Assembly passed that funding measure to get started on design of the facility.
Now that a suitable site has apparently been found, supporters of the VA nursing home hope that design work can begin right away.
“This seems to be a more desirable site than the initial site,” said state Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, who sponsored HB 24. “The state has contracted with a design firm.
“That’s in the process now. In the last conversation I had with the Department of Veterans Affairs, they still didn’t have a federal funding letter. But they’re hopeful that things will move forward.”
Waiting on the VA facility to start coming out of the ground is nothing new.
Over the years, Kentucky found itself behind other states on the federal priority list because the state already has VA nursing facilities in Hazard, Wilmore, Hanson and Radcliff.
Despite the presence of those facilities, one local veterans advocate said there is still a need in Bowling Green.
Malcolm Cherry, commander of Bowling Green’s American Legion Post 23, said the existing veterans nursing homes don’t cover southcentral Kentucky.
“They’re pretty well covered in eastern Kentucky,” Cherry said last year. “We have people from this part of the state in those nursing homes. Their families have a hard time visiting them. We have nothing in southcentral Kentucky.”
Although the prospects for a VA nursing home in Bowling Green appear to be better than ever after this land donation, Meredith said a groundbreaking is probably months away and a grand opening may not happen for a couple more years.
Bunch said the delay will probably mean that the facility will be scaled back from what was originally proposed.
“Because time has passed, what they had originally hoped to build probably isn’t affordable now,” Bunch said. “In the past, it was planned as a 120-bed facility.
“Now it might need to be 60 beds initially, with the ability to expand it to 90.”
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.