A $27 million bond issue that provides funds for the completion of a new Veterans Home, is on next week’s ballot, one of seven statewide bond issues.

The new home replaces the current Veterans Home in Bristol that was originally built more than 60 years ago, with several additions built over the next several years.

Four years ago, voters approved a $94 million bond, but with federal funding, the state’s share was reduced to $33.5 million. The additional authorization is the result of inflation and new federal guidelines for reimbursement of state veterans’ home construction, adding more costly requirements. With approval of the bond, the state share will total $60.5 million.

The current $27 million bond proposal will actually cost taxpayers $43,281,371, including $16,281,371 in interest. The interest figure is based on an assumed interest rate of 5 percent, with level payments over 20 years, according to the state.

What will the bond actually fund?

  • Allow for the completion of construction of the campus style building that will include 208 beds, less than the 260 beds that were authorized in the current facility.
  • While the current facility has 260 beds. One wing is closed, however, because of staffing considerations. There are only 170 veterans at the home, according to published reports.
  • The fewer number of beds (208 versus 260) is the result of changing demographics, with officials saying the use of long-term care is decreasing with a national focus toward home care.
  • One significant change from the old home is to eliminate shared rooms, and provide each veteran with his or her own room.
  • Construction on the project began in 2015, with expected completion, if the bond is approved, by the fall of next year. Gilbane Construction is the contractor.
  • If the bond fails, veterans’ officials said they would have to return to the General Assembly to seek additional funding.
  • The bond issue would also fund demolishment of the current building, which would be done only after the new facility opens.

Why is the bond important?

  • Replacement of an aging building, with the new building having an expected lifespan of 50 years.

Is there opposition?

  • None that has actually surfaced, although three of the five Republican Senators opposed this and each of the five bond issues that will require state spending. Those Senators are Mark Gee, R-Dist. 35 of East Greenwich, North Kingstown and South Kingstown; Nicholas Kettle, R-Dist. 21 of Coventry, Foster, Scituate and West Greenwich;  Elaine Morgan, R-Dist. 34 of Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, and Richmond. There was no opposition in the House of Representatives.

WhatsUpNewp and What’sUpRhode Island  arei profiling each of the statewide referenda, in what promises to be a spirited election from the presidency to local public offices and local issues. ICYMI, here are two previous stories that we’ve published –

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.