Fresno Bee: Governor's budget funds Fresno veterans home

Jan 9, 2013
In The News

Governor's budget funds Fresno veterans home

By John Ellis and Eddie Jimenez / The Fresno Bee - The Fresno Bee

Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 | 04:47 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget released Thursday includes $27 million for veterans homes in Fresno and Redding, which a local lawmaker said should fully fund the Fresno facility.

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, a Fresno Democrat, said it's unknown how the money would be split between the two homes, but Fresno "would get the lion's share because it is a bigger home."

Lawmakers last year had approved $4.2 million for the Fresno and Redding homes -- enough money to open the 300-bed Fresno home with a limited staff and serve a limited number of veterans, Perea said.

Part of that earlier money will fund a Jan. 23 job fair being held by the California Department of Veterans Affairs to hire the home's first 70 employees.

Positions available include nursing, medicine, pharmacy, mental health services, social services, sanitation and janitorial, plant operations, grounds keeping, security, accounting and more.

But the money in Brown's proposed budget will go well beyond that.

The home that has sat unused at the southeast corner of California and Marks avenues on the southwestern edge of Fresno will employ slightly more than 400 people, Perea said. If the proposed budget is approved, the veterans home will be able to hire a full staff and fill all 300 beds.

The first eight veterans are expected to move in this fall.

"Last year, we didn't get the funding we wanted, but we knew we wanted to get something in the budget," he said. "I'm glad we got what we did last year, but this year's the real victory because it's fully funded."

Veterans advocate Charlie Waters of Fresno said he was glad that Brown kept his word on funding the southwest Fresno home.

Waters, president of the Central Valley Veterans Home Support Foundation, said the group's members were thrilled to hear the news.

"We're pleased that the governor did what he promised, and that was to see that we got our home," he said.

He said the foundation will work with state officials on the job fair, providing food, drinks, tables and chairs and whatever else is needed.

The Fresno veterans home has been in the works for more than a decade but was delayed by the state's budget crisis and, at one point, looked it might be mothballed.

It was in mid-2002 when then-Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation that paved the way for the Fresno veterans home to be built. It capped a push to expand the state's veterans homes that also saw voters approve in March 2000 a $50 million bond for new homes.

There also was haggling over the Fresno home's location. At one point, it was slated for Caruthers, and a site in southeast Fresno was also considered.

"After 12 long years, I want to thank the governor for including the funding in this year's budget," said Rep. Jim Costa, a Fresno Democrat and longtime supporter of the project. "I give credit to our veterans who never lost hope and kept the pressure on local, state and federal officials."

Costa said he "always felt that we were going to get this open by hook or crook."

The investment in human resources and federal dollars, he said, was too big.

It was originally slated to open in fall 2011, Costa said, with the new facility coming to full capacity by early 2012.

For area veterans, however, better late than never.

"It's been a long time," said Waters. "It feels good."