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Vets want nursing home on redeveloped base

February 16, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Vets want nursing home on redeveloped base

Washington County veterans officials on Monday expressed displeasure that the Pen Mar Development Corp. hasn't included a veterans home in plans for the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie.

"We think it's very disappointing, and downright unpatriotic that they are not including us in their plans," said Pete Callas, a former state delegate.

The Joint Veterans Council of Washington County wants the development corporation to set aside about 10 acres and three dormitory buildings for a nursing home for elderly veterans.

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"I don't know why they don't want to give us those buildings," said Joint Veterans Council President Ray S. Linebaugh.

Pen Mar Executive Director Robert Sweeney said the buildings will be used by the International Masonry Institute, which is expected to bring 200 jobs to the base over the next five years.

"I think there is a big misconception that there is a big land grab at Fort Ritchie. That is not the case," Sweeney said.

A veterans home wouldn't be feasible because once the fort closes in October, support services will no longer be available, he said.

Linebaugh and Callas said they think the fort is an ideal place for a nursing home, and will meet with the Washington County Commissioners today in an effort to enlist their support.

"It's a beautiful site. Everything is right there," Callas said.

Sweeney said the Maryland Veterans Commission must indicate approval of any planned veterans home, and that hasn't happened.

"He ought to be talking to the Maryland Veterans Commission, not to us or to the County Commissioners," Sweeney said of Callas.

Callas said a nursing home at the fort could serve more than 100 veterans and provide 50 to 100 jobs.

Most of the funding would come from the state and federal governments, Callas said. No funding has been lined up.

The dormitories would have to be renovated and elevators installed to make them accessible to the handicapped.

Callas, a member of the veterans council's board of directors, said it would be cheaper to use existing buildings than to construct a new building.

In addition, the fort's commissary could be converted to a recreation hall for veterans, he said.

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