FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – For the first time a Veteran Affairs nursing home will be built in Florence County.
It's one of three nursing homes that will be built in South Carolina, and Florence County is first on the list.
Ken Roey, the director of physical plant services for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, was invited to present at the Florence County Veteran Affairs monthly meeting Tuesday morning.
Roey runs the nursing home services for the state, and talked about funding and what Florence County can expect.
"We've been doing a lot of work. We cleared a lot of the brush on the site and we actually have an archaeologist that's walking the site this week, looking at some of the historical aspects. Part of the federal grant process is we are required to go through the state preservation office to ensure we are retaining the character of the site," said Roey.
He added that there is a half a billion dollars in projects ahead of the Florence County endeavor.
"If we can reduce the cost, potentially that could mean we can accelerate the construction timeline," Roey said. "We would not build it if we didn't have the general assembly, the legislature's approval for the operating costs, which is around $8 million a year. It's a significant chunk.".
The Florence County nursing home is expected to cost around $40 million. It will be mandated by the South Carolina Department of Health and situated next to the Florence stockade site from the Civil War, a 35-acre piece of land on Stockade Drive near the national cemetery.
"Our country must think something to put a national cemetery here in Florence and to have a nursing home just for veterans right here is such a great fit," said Bob Eldrige, a veteran and head of the Disabled American Veterans in Florence.
Randy Godbold the executive director of Florence County Veteran Affairs, noted that there is a back log of thousands just waiting to get into the VA nursing homes.
"I think the only disappointment side is that it will take so long to get started," he said.
The Florence VA nursing home is expected to have 108 beds total. Statewide, there are only 510 rooms for veterans.
"He gave us a really great background today as to what this place will look like. The specialty in service that they can give to the veteran is what I am really excited about. It's nice to have a nursing home, but when you have veterans in it too, some veterans won't talk to anyone else but other veterans," Eldridge said.
Officials with the Florence County Veteran Affairs Office said it could take as long as five years to be ready and break ground, and then two years for construction.