The seven year battle to get a new Veterans Administration clinic in Columbus is still raging, despite the fact that a new facility is under construction.
Representatives from several Chattahoochee Valley veterans groups held a news conference Tuesday morning; and they want the work on this site halted and the VA to reconsider its selection.
The heavy equipment has been on the move on the site at the northeast corner of the River Road and Mobley Road intersection for several weeks. The 13-acre tract is being cleared for a Kansas City developer to build a clinic that has been in the works for more than eight years.
That has not made a number of local Veterans organizations happy. And representatives for those groups showed their displeasure.
“In this situation, I think about the will of the veteran” said veteran Marvin Broadwater Sr. “Those veterans who can not stand with us. That’s who I speak for. Those Veterans who are being taken care of by their caregiver and can not leave their house. That’s who I am thinking about. There is no way, let me say this again Columbus region, there is no way that they can get to this clinic. We have got to think about the voiceless.”
The local veterans’ coalition is pushing the VA to reconsider and put the clinic in the recently vacated Columbus Public Health Department building on Comer Avenue in the heart of the midtown medical community.
In September 2018, the old Blue Cross/Blue Shield building was selected, but the VA scraped those plans in the summer of 2019. That led to the bid process being reopened and the River Road site being picked.
More than a dozen veterans from across the Chattahoochee Valley gathered at the old Columbus Health Department Tuesday morning. That facility was not available early this year when this decision was made.
The veterans are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to stop the project in North Columbus and open a clinic in the vacant space on Comer Avenue.
“You have a ready to go health department that is now available currently for rental to see to it that the veterans get services now not at that piece of garbage on 13th Avenue,” said retired Army colonel and former Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff. “One of the points that Poydasheff and other veterans are making the VA and the developer never sought input from the veterans’ groups in the Chattahoochee Valley.
But Poydasheff is also a realist.
“Can we stop it at this time? I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s wrong. Not one member of the veterans’ community was asked for their input.”
Retired Col. Sam Nelson is even more blunt.
“We are the people who know where it needs to be. It needs to be where poor, underprivileged veterans can access it,” Nelson said. “Now, I will be quite honest with you, if the regulations say this should be built for rich veterans who can come over there in their golf cart and they will have valet parking, up there is where it needs to be built,”he said. “But if it’s for the poor veteran that was shot all to pieces in Vietnam or Korea or some other God-forsaken place and because of his wounds can’t make the kinds of money many of us make then it doesn’t need to be up there. It needs to be where poor veterans can get to it.”