Ventura County veterans can look forward to construction beginning within three years on a long-awaited veterans home planned for a 22-acre site on Telephone Road in Ventura.
Tom Johnson, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, came to Ventura this week to give a group of local leaders and veterans' advocates an update on the planned 60-bed facility near Saticoy that is to serve the area's aging veterans. Another meeting was held to discuss plans for a similar facility in Lancaster.
"He wanted to recommit to them that these homes are a priority for the new governor," Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Robert Glazier said. "Veterans are dying on a daily basis, and we need to provide this service for them. It's long overdue."
Glazier said the Ventura home, expected to open in the summer of 2008, also will be licensed to provide adult healthcare during the day for up to 50 veterans, although only 25 are expected to visit the site on an average weekday.
The 40,000-square-foot, $17-million complex will have three buildings initially, and will be designed for expansion to 400 beds "as the needs arise and the budget is there," Glazier said.
California voters approved a $50-million bond in 2000 to build five veterans homes statewide and the Legislature subsequently set aside $61 million for construction and repair of existing veterans' facilities. Glazier said federal funds are expected to cover about 65% of the construction cost.
Plans began in 1990 to bring a 400-bed veterans home to Ventura County, but through the years, the project was scaled back and often delayed.
"It's amazing to me that it's been 14 years," said Ojai's Chuck Bennett, chairman of the Tri-County Veterans Home Coalition. "It looks like they're coming through on the current promises and, overall, veterans are very pleased about that."
Bennett said there is a great need locally to provide health services so the county's estimated 65,000 veterans are not forced to travel to the VA hospital in West Los Angeles.
Construction of a planned 400-bed veterans home on that site is to begin at the same time work begins on the Ventura facility.