April 24, 2014

Intermittent clouds

Groups hope to support troops after their service

The current facade of the veterans hall. (GAZETTE PHOTO)

Veterans groups and county officials hope to raise $1 million to renovate the Medina County Veterans Hall at 620 N. Broadway St. in Medina.

David Taylor, chairman of the modernization campaign, told county commissioners Monday that more than 550 veterans among four groups use the hall and at least two more groups would like to if the building is updated.

He said the hall also fails to accommodate veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Image of a renovated Medina County Veterans Hall by Simmons Construction design architects. (RENDITION PROVIDED BY SIMMONS CONSTRUCTION)

“The key point here is this is not a Medina city project. It is a Medina County project,” Taylor said.

The building was built by Simmons Construction in 1956 as a Baptist church. Another church took it over until it became the American Legion Hall in the 1960s.

American Legion Post 202, American Veterans Post 1990, Disabled Veterans of America Chapter 72, and Vietnam Veterans of America already call the building home, Taylor said. Rolling Thunder Inc. Chapter 8 and Medina County Women of the Military also would like to use the hall.

Mike Paul, a member of the Vietnam Veterans and AmVets, said groups like Rolling Thunder and Medina County Women of the Military have used the hall for gatherings but had to prepare all the food at home.

The building does not have air-conditioning or updated heating, wireless Internet access or multimedia equipment like projectors and screens.

Add to the mix the maintenance costs of fixing leaks in the flat roof — two last year — the unpaved parking lot and outdated kitchen and restroom facilities and Taylor said the building just can’t serve the county’s 13,855 veterans as it should.

Taylor said the $1 million project would solve all those problems, expand the building and buy two nearby properties for green space, expanded parking and an outdoor patio. A newer building means expanded programs to grow membership in veterans groups.

In-house design architects for Simmons Construction drafted images of what a new building would look like with a peaked roof and new facing on all sides.

Taylor said the new facility would serve a monthly breakfast for homebound veterans and those in nursing homes so they could socialize more often.

The renovated building also would include historical displays from the Civil War to today focusing on the service of Medina County veterans.
“We want to reach out to grade-school children and have them visit and learn about history; so when they’re in public and see a veteran, they have a better idea of the sacrifices made by these people,” Taylor said. “We want them learning about the role Medina County veterans played in those wars to maintain our freedom.”

Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley said the county provides money annually from the general fund to the Veterans Services Commission and Taylor’s team has discussed some options with that agency.

“We don’t have any direct financial interest other than if the Veterans Services Commission decides they’ll be involved in the project and they have their own board,” Hambley said. “In our community, $1 million for a capital improvement project is a pretty lofty goal, especially in this economy and especially in terms of county dollars.”

Paul said veterans are looking at three ways of funding the project.

“The first tier is trust funds from banks, who might want to make a donation, and those are 100 percent tax-deductible. That, we think, would make up 70 to 80 percent of the $1 million,” he said.

He said they hope for another 20 percent from local business donations, and the last 10 from veterans, their families and civilian donations.

“We think we’ll get a lot from the community, because they have always supported the veterans,” Paul said.

He said the group has priorities based on the concerns of all groups that use the building.

“If we only get half then we need to agree on what to do with that half,” he said.

The priorities are:

• Adding peaked roof and/or paving parking lot.

• Updating kitchen and restrooms, including handicap access.

• Renovating main hall.

• Adding historic displays.

The Veterans Hall Capital Campaign Oversight Committee includes county Treasurer John Burke, Medina Finance Director Keith Dirham, county Auditor Michael Kovack, and Donald Simmons of Simmons Brothers Construction.

Kovack said two checks already have come in totaling $1,000 from private individuals even though the campaign will not start making official funding appeals until Jan. 1. The one-year fund drive will finish in 2015, when construction is planned to begin.

Donations may be sent to Kovack’s office with checks made out to the Auditor Kovack Community Fund. All donations are tax-deductible and will be acknowledged by letter for tax purposes.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.