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If county-owned, VFW could become center to serve, honor veterans

Military veterans could have a place to gather and civic clubs could get a new meeting space if the county completes the purchase of the Hedrick-Rhodes VFW Post 5206 building at Five Points.


Henderson County Commissioner Michael Edney, who had been working behind the scenes to push the purchase forward, presented the idea on Monday night. It was appropriate on Pearl Harbor Day, he said, to announce two actions to help veterans — a donation to support the American Legion’s honor guard and the VFW purchase.

“We did our due diligence and came up with a multitude of things we can use that property for,” Edney said. Ideas include moving the Veterans Service office and Veterans Hall to the post property. The building has a dance floor with a capacity of 500 and seating for 300 that could be used for county events and for the public, he said. “It will be booked and filled to capacity before we know it,” Edney said.

An 11-page purchase contract sets the price at $35,000 — a half million dollars less than the $535,000 list price the VFW marketed last summer. The contract, if the commissioners ultimately approve it, also obligates the county to pay current and past due property taxes and “whatever debt the VFW has run up,” County Attorney Russ Burrell said. “They have to give us the number right before the January budget workshop and if it’s some huge amount of money the commissioners might say we’re in this due diligence period and we’re not going to buy it. We don’t know exactly how much it is and that’s one of the reasons we have a fairly substantial due diligence period. The real issue is going to be what those debts are and what kind of shape the building’s in.”

The county has assigned architects Clark-Nexsen to inspect the building and report on repair costs and any problems that might be insurmountable.

“A final decision has not been made yet,” Chairman Bill Lapsley said. The inspection will “make sure there’s no hidden issues we should be concerned about.” The Clark-Nexsen report is expected back by January. If all is well, the purchase could close in February.

VFW officials approached Edney about the sale, County Manager Steve Wyatt said.

“He and I came up with a Veterans Center, to honor veterans and have veteran type events but also have some multi-use meeting space,” Wyatt said. The VFW hall could replace the Chariot, a civic club meeting space that is scheduled to be demolished for the Cedars hotel project.

“It will be an opportunity for the Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, whoever, if they wanted a meeting place,” Wyatt said. The Veterans Hall at the Health and Human Services building could be moved to the VFW. “Also, we think it’s important perhaps to work with the school system to have a place for field trips to give the kids that opportunity to see and to hear from folks like Col. Grady Hawkins maybe.”

The city had also been talking to the VFW about buying the property. Talks stalled because the city contemplated clearing the land for a new Fire Station 1. The two sides could not agree on a way that the city could give the VFW a permanent meeting space in a city-owned building.

“I’ve spoken to (City Manager) John (Connet) about this and he didn’t raise any concerns,” Wyatt said. “My position was it can be an asset but it’s something that has kind of come up but the price would have to be extremely attractive.” The sale price was secondary, he said, to the VFW’s desire to preserve its history and memorabilia and have a place to gather. “They want it preserved and they want to be able to use it,” he said.