SHERIDAN — Sheridan County citizens fervently shared why Green House Living for Sheridan is the top option for a new state veteran skilled nursing facility authorized by a recently-installed state statute. A task force consisting of MOA Architecture, Wyoming Veterans Commission director Steve Kravitsky and members of the Wyoming Department of Health and state construction department held a town hall meeting to discuss the process, next phases and to hear feedback.
Despite holding the meeting during Sheridan WYO Rodeo week to some concern of the attendees, Kravitsky said the meeting was well attended, which is something MOA Architecture looks at when determining the best location for the facility. Eight locations around the state are currently being reviewed as possible homes for the facility: Gillette, Buffalo, Sheridan, Laramie, Cheyenne, Riverton, Lander and Casper.
Criteria for study levels one and two include logistical construction needs like existing flood plains, previous excavation concerns and environmental restrictions. The architecture firm also looks at the surrounding community to see if the site is near a veteran population, has opportunities for advancements in education, has a sustainable workforce, is near an airport and whether the community offers maintenance services for both the building and technical equipment utilized within the facility.
Numerous Sheridanites commented on how Sheridan fit and was more than qualified in each of those categories.
Northern Wyoming Community College District President Paul Young and recent Sheridan College graduate Cassidy Solti spoke on the workforce-ready students graduating from the two-year community college. Young specifically pointed out the nursing and restorative nurse assistant programs as well as manufacturing and technical jobs that help feed into the growing economy.
Green House Living board members Jack Tarver and Barbara Walter both emphasized that the location where the 24-bed facility would be located — on a plot of land directly connected to Green House Living for Sheridan — is “shovel-ready” for construction with no costs associated with the land due to generous community donations.
Green House Living for Sheridan human resources manager Chris Dempsey said Green House Living for Sheridan was one of the only green house model facilities, if not the only facility, in the nation that came together completely by grassroots efforts and financial support of the community.
Several attendees mentioned the location’s close proximity to Sheridan Memorial Hospital and Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center as benefits as well.
State Sen. Bruce Burns voiced his concern over the process, though. Study levels one and two will end in October.
The task force involved in conducting the studies will brief the state building commission of the findings and the top three suggestions for location of the facility. Then, the Wyoming Legislature will choose one out of the top three, finalizing the location so the task force can continue with the VA application for the facility.
“Frankly, I would feel more confident if the task force had the final say on the location,” Burns said. “I think Sheridan would stand a better chance because for all the reasons stated here and for all the objective reasons, I think Sheridan is the best location.
“However, you’re bringing it down to three…and then it’s up to the Legislature,” Burns continued. “Then it becomes political and that’s what really makes me nervous.”
Burns said one of the strongest advocates for the facility going to the Casper area is Wyoming Speaker of the House Steve Harshman, who is running for re-election and also happens to be on the coaching staff with Natrona County High School, a strong rival to Sheridan.
“Frankly, it’s going to be a fight for them because they will be fighting the leadership of the House who’s best friend happens to be the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee,” Burns said. “And those two wash each other’s hands all the time.”
The task force visited Gillette, Buffalo and Sheridan this week and will continue to the other five locations in the next few weeks.
The final deadline to submit comments to the task force is Sept. 19. Comments can be submitted at vetshomestudy.wyo.gov.