Vet home proposal moves forward

Feasibility study for facility in Post Falls to be launched

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POST FALLS - The pursuit to have an 88-bed state veterans home built in Post Falls to serve the Panhandle continues to make progress.

Proposals are being sought this month to perform a feasibility study, which is required to construct such a facility. The study will be funded with $250,000 that state legislators approved during the last session.

"It's starting to move along," said Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin, who is among those working on the vet home proposal.

The study is expected to be completed before April 2014 and then submitted to the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C.

"Once it gets to the V.A. in D.C., the waiting in line starts to make it to the top of the list," Larkin said. "Patience must be a virtue."

Larkin said this year only nine out of 80 applications for vet homes nationwide were approved for construction due to federal cuts.

But he said he remains optimistic that such a facility will be built here.

"I'm still confident it will get built, but it's not going to happen overnight," he said. "We believe that we meet the criteria for a fourth Idaho veterans home."

There are an estimated 18,000 veterans in Kootenai County alone. The closest vet home is in Lewiston. Others are in Boise and Pocatello.

Larkin said he's hoping a land donation that has been bantered locally will move the North Idaho proposal up high on the list. He said he couldn't specify where the site is, but earlier said property in the Highway 41 corridor is a possibility.

"If, in the feasibility study, we can tell the people who would build it that we have land donated, that would be a huge step," Larkin said.

Larkin, a Vietnam and Korean War veteran, said the Idaho Veterans Assistance League is set up to accept donations from citizens toward a home. Idaho's three other vet homes already have accounts set up.

"That would save a lot of time and expense as opposed to setting our own (foundation) up," Larkin said.

Nearly 3,000 signatures in support of the facility were earlier sent to the Idaho American Legion. Vet groups have also approved resolutions in support of the project.

The VA has traditionally kicked in 65 percent of the funding for such facilities and the rest needs to be raised.

The total cost for facilities similar to the one being proposed in Post Falls, including the building and land, have run in the $20 million range.

Larkin said he has been collaborating with several officials, including those at other veterans facilities in the West, on how to best make the facility a reality.

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