SHEFFIELD — Sheffield Mayor John Hunter isn’t going down without a fight when it comes to the Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic possibly leaving his community.
At a Monday night Lorain City Council public hearing, Warrensville Heights real estate developer Mike Downing announced plans for the clinic to move from the village back to Lorain.
“I just want to do what’s best for the veterans of this county,” Hunter said. “If they want to move then that’s what they want to do, but I really think Sheffield Village is the better location.”
The clinic has been in Sheffield since the end of 2015 when it was announced the agency was leaving the St. Joseph Community Center in Lorain. New plans indicate the clinic could be heading to the intersection of Kolbe Road and West Erie Avenue in Lorain.
At the public hearing Monday, Downing said the clinic moving back to Lorain is very much contingent on whether or not the six parcels of land being considered are rezoned from residential to business, allowing for a medical facility.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said the potential move is “good news” and the city is “ecstatic.”
“I remember talking with the VA secretary at the time when the clinic left Lorain and telling them how important this was for the city of Lorain and the veterans community,” he said. “I mean, that community in this town is second to none. This community time and time again takes care of its own, and it’s so nice for this area that it’s coming home, where the true need is. This is some of the better news we’ve gotten lately.”
Ritenauer has said the federal contracting process is not a simple one, though, and people should try to keep that in mind through this project.
“It’s a cumbersome, arduous, long, long-term process, and I think he’s telling us what he’s able to tell us, but the bottom line without this rezoning, this isn’t even a consideration,” he said. “I think they are following federal protocol with a project of this nature.”
City Council is expected to vote on the rezoning at its next meeting.
Hunter said the Sheffield location, on Abbe Road near Hoag Drive, is more centrally located for veterans in the county.
“It’s close to the Turnpike, it’s close to the county administration building, it’s close to (Lorain County Community College),” he said. “More people are even closer to this site, and the proposed one is four and a half miles further west than the previous one.”
According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Grafton has the highest percentage of veterans in the county, with 13.5 percent of residents over the age of 18 having served in the military.
In Sheffield Lake, 10.5 percent of residents are veterans, followed by 10 percent in Sheffield.
Nine percent of Lorain’s 47,645 residents over the age of 18 served in the military, and Elyria and North Ridgeville have a veteran population over 9 percent — 9.4 and 9.8, respectively.
The 845 veterans who live in Amherst would be closer to the Kolbe Road location and the 2,333 veterans who live in Avon and Avon Lake would be closed to the Sheffield location.
Hunter said when he spoke with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs he was told the agency hadn’t even put out bids for the new site.
“The fact of the matter that this is the best place for the highest number of people,” he said.
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