by Max Brantley
Mayor Mark Stodola is not happy with commentary here on his objection to use of a vacant car dealership at Tenth and Main as the new home for an expanded day drop-in center for veterans services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The center is now at 2nd and Ringo. The new location would allow expanded services as well as vehicle storage.
For background, here's information on the building the city purchased from Union Rescue Mission in August for its homeless center at 3000 Confederate Boulevard.
I'll just give you verbatim what I got from the mayor. One point of explanation: He begins with an objection that the city's homeless coordinator was at a meeting with VA officials in September and the new site wasn't mentioned, contrary to what was reported here Tuesday and today in the Democrat-Gazette. Actually, I was told by VA officials that it was an October homeless meeting where the plan was discussed informally and that another city official attended it briefly, but not the homeless coordinator. I have a call into the VA to clear up that discrepancy. Otherwise, I give the floor to the mayor:
Should you ever be curious enough to seek out what the City has done over the last 3 years to help the homeless, in concert with community involvement, call me. Your lack of knowledge in this regard is astounding. It is obvious to everyone you have a continual ax to grind with me about everything. I now take your bias for granted since you make no effort to call or find out all the facts. The D-G got it wrong; Jimmy Pritchett, our Homeless Coordinator, was at the September VA homeless meeting for 6.5 hours, never a word about this location. You might want to call the VA’s current neighbors to find out what kind of past neighborhood stewards they have been. The mission is absolutely important and our veterans must be cared for. With proposed rent alone at $180,000 yr I imagine more a better location can be found. In the meantime, below are answers about our location that we have provided to the VA.
Thank you for your time yesterday. We appreciate the Mayor’s willingness to have discussions related to our Drop In Center. Just wanted to follow up with some information from yesterday’s meeting:
* How many square feet would be available?
The building has approximately 13,254 sq ft total space in a 3 story building. The [day resource center] DRC will solely use 1200 sq ft for office\clinical staffing. Entrance lobby, waiting area, dining and kitchen facilities and 3 offices exist on the main floor of approximately 5500 sq. ft. URM is currently using ground floor for shelter, but will be vacating approximately in November of 2012. 4750 square footage exists on the ground floor, with 350 sq. ft being used as a laundry room. Top floor is approximately 1250 sq. ft.
* To what extent will the building be renovated?
2012 improvements include exterior renovation and overall utility upgrades to electrical service and gas service to accommodate installation of 10 new heating and cooling units for entire building. New security gate and fencing for courtyard. New exterior fire stair for vacant 3rd floor. New rails and handrails as well as one hour fire for North Interior Stairway. 2 new commercial water heaters installed, 2 new shower units installed. Once URM vacates additional renovation of remaining space will occur based on need. Also, general improvements to kitchen, including grease trap and cosmetic improvement to interior walls, floors and windows.
* Will it be ADA accessible?
Confederate Blvd street level entrance is ADA accessible and ground floor is ADA accessible at West exterior door. Top floor will require a lift to be accessible depending on use.
* How much space will be available for group education and therapy?
With the exception of 1200 square feet, all the remaining area in the building would be available.
* Band width availability for tele-video conferencing and medical treatment. Particular to VA Function.
Unknown. Building presently has wireless internet service.
* Security of shower and bathroom facility for females.
For 2012, the City is installing one unisex shower and restroom on the main first floor as part the 1200 sq foot Day Resource Center area. Once URM vacates the building, the entire downstairs shower and restroom area can be constructed with plans for larger, modern male and female facilities. Currently, male showers exist on the ground floor.
* Amount of space available for secure overnight parking.
At present 6 spaces exist in front along Confederate with additional spaces available inside the gated fenced courtyard behind the building as well as a concrete pad behind the building on West side. The City is negotiating the purchase of a large lot in the rear of the building which together with the existing spaces will accommodate more than 25+ vehicles. Additional parking may be available across the street.
* Frequency of the bus schedule.
CATA Route 6 serves this area every 35 minutes beginning at 6:10am ending at 8:00pm
* How and what type of meals will be served, will nutritional plans be individualized?
Current plan is for breakfast and lunch prepared by kitchen staff. Weekend meals for breakfast and lunch are under discussion with various groups and faith based organizations currently providing meals. Nutritional plans can be developed, and the DRC would work with the VA to bring this forward. Most budgets cover costs for BASIC meals and also take into account donations, and Foodbank provisions.. We could partner with VA Dietician Services for meals placing the preparation and selection for diets with them.
* Will on site security be provided by the city?
Yes. Current plans for DRC involve installing a second walk thru metal detector at the Confederate (east ) entrance in addition to metal detector security on the lower west side of the building presently utilized by URM Shelter clients. DRC Security plan calls for uniformed Security Guard and current URM Staff person. NOTE: The VA has utilized off duty LRPD in the past and now utilizes off duty PCSO Deputies for security at their facility. “Ideally” we could partner on this for both operations. Other facilities I have visited utilize “off duty” police personnel.
Additional City Observations:
Additional renovation needs for the VA can be absorbed in any rent structure agreed upon by the parties.
Staffing of the DRC includes: LCSW and LSWs; School of Social Work interns; receptionist; Security; laundry workers; kitchen staff; full-time transportation personnel
Daily routine will include: morning transportation pick —up at various locations in LR and NLR; transportation for apptments during the day; and return transportation to various housing/shelter options at close of day. Hours of operation are tentatively 7am to 4pm. Some weekend meals will likely be available at the DRC.
Medical and dental services are being arranged with: Harmony Health Clinic; St. Vincent’s East Clinic and other medical providers.