Why so expensive?

Why does the unoccupied Redding veterans’ home need 10 employees?

The author is a retired Air Force colonel who lives in Cottonwood. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 2010 and 2012.

In spite of efforts to secure required operating funds, the newly built veterans’ home in Redding remains unoccupied. Although it was completed in the January 2012 timeframe, not a single veteran can call the new facility home. And, frankly, no one can say for sure exactly when the doors will officially open for business.

Isa Baca, admissions coordinator at the Veterans Homes Division, California Department of Veterans Affairs (CDVA), recently advised that “until the fiscal situation of the state is corrected it is hard to provide a specific date when the home will be opening for residents to move in….”

While our elected leaders try to sort out this mess in Sacramento, the new $88 million, 150-room facility sits empty. The only exception is a cadre of CDVA folks on site charged with maintaining the facility. According to Baca, the home has 10 authorized positions in 2011-12, including a deputy administrator.

Baca points out that “…the cost of maintaining the home in its empty state is $119,000 a month, which includes salary and benefits for the employees and electricity, water and utilities….” That’s roughly $1.43 million per year.

Citing “confidentiality issues,” Baca advised that personnel information on the 10 employees, including their positions, grades, responsibilities and salaries, was not releasable.

What strikes me as odd is the need for 10 employees to babysit a facility that’s in mothball status. Heck, since it’s a brand-new facility and not being fully utilized, there should be few, if any, major maintenance problems. Any problems that do develop ought to be covered by builder and product warranties.

Several other local area organizations were surveyed to see how many maintenance folks were employed, with the following results: Regency Place Senior Apartments (80 apartments, 8 years old): one; The Seasons at Anderson (78 apartments, 1 year old): one; Anderson School District: eight; and Shasta Regional Medical Center: eight.

Unlike the veterans’ home, all are open for business and serving customers. Unlike the veterans’ home, all are occupied facilities. Unlike the veterans’ home, all appear to be taking care of their maintenance needs with fewer personnel.

Dare I say that the CDVA needs to re-examine its veterans’ home staffing levels, current and future. When fully operational, the cost of running the home is estimated to be $26 million to $28 million, with a 236-person staff.

With these numbers, one wonders if we’ll ever be able to afford our long-sought Redding veterans’ home.