The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, September 6, 2007, at 1:00 PM, in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Elizabeth Tori, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Daniel Mongiardo, Jerry P. Rhoads, Dorsey Ridley, Dick Roeding, Dan Seum, and Katie Stine; Representatives Sheldon E. Baugh, Carolyn Belcher, Larry Belcher, Tom Burch, Bill Farmer, David Floyd, Jeff Greer, Tim Moore, Fred Nesler, Steve Riggs, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Sal Santoro, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, Ancel Smith, and John Tilley.
Guests: Adjutant General Donald C. Storm; General Julius Berthold, Colonel Mark Needham, Garrison Commander, Fort Knox; Bob Morey, Special Assistant to Associate Director, Wayne Pfeffer, Director, Louisville VAMC; Sandy Nielsen, Director, Lexington VAMC; Dusty Stines, Public Awareness Officer, Lexington VAMC; Lou Drawdy, Linda Drawdy, O-DC Vets; Judy Williams, Melanie Reynolds, Stephanie Billings, Wayne Pfeffer, Louisville, VAMC; Larry Fohl, KY Troops to Teachers; Frank Kourrman, AMVETS; Raymond Drake, Helen Drake, DAVA; Gene Hammonds, American Legion; Don Dixon, Marine Corp League; Larry Arnett, JECVO; Lucian Townsell, VFW; Paul Schlisser, Clint Mishiw, NCOA.
LRC Staff: Erica Warren, CSA, Clint Newman, Mustapha Jammeh, Tyler Campbell and Rhonda Schierer.
Co-Chair Tori called the meeting to order. The committee adopted the minutes from the August interim committee meeting unanimously by voice vote.
Co-Chair Tori welcomed Representative Tim Moore back from Afghanistan and thanked the speakers, visitors and committee members for being there. She recognized Erica Warren and applauded her as the new Committee Staff Administrator for the Committee.
Co-Chair Tori asked Erica Warren, CSA, to summarize two Committee Resolutions honoring the following soldiers who lost their lives in the Global War on Terrorism: Sergeant First Class Daniel Edward Miller and Staff Sergeant Nicholas Carnes. She asked the committee to stand and observe moments of silence to honor the memories of these fallen soldiers. Both resolutions were unanimously adopted by voice vote.
Co-Chair Tori recognized Major General Donald C. Storm, Adjutant General, Kentucky National Guard and General Berthold. She asked General Storm to provide the committee with an update on the Military Family Assistance Trust Fund Board Report.
General Storm first asked to show a presentation on the status of the Kentucky Guard. He discussed the functions, divisions and programs of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA). He stated that military was a unique organization with a State Mission responsive to the Governor and all the citizens of the Commonwealth.
General Storm stated that the current personnel strength of the Kentucky National Guard is 8,349 and they are located in 55 facilities in Kentucky Communities. He stated that the Federal Mission is to provide trained units and qualified persons available for active duty in time of war or national emergency and other times as national security may require. He stated that there are cumulatively 10,633 soldiers and airmen previously or currently mobilized.
General Storm briefed the committee on the programs the Kentucky National Guard supports. He listed a variety of state contingency missions such as natural disasters and state public safety incidents in which the Kentucky National Guard plays a vital role. He also listed the emergency responses between 2001 and 2007 in his presentation that was given to members in their folders.
Senator Roeding asked General Storm if he could use help from the legislature in any areas of recruiting soldiers. General Storm replied that there has been a good response from the school systems across the commonwealth, noting that they were having a difficult time in Northern Kentucky due to the tremendous growth in there.
Representative Baugh asked about the number of recruits for the National Guard and what the maximum and minimum recruiting ages are. General Storm stated that there are authorized about 7,200 presently, and that the minimum age is 17 with a parent signature, 18 without signature, up to age 42 non-professional and about age 50 for professional persons.
Representative Riggs asked about how many recruits the military is recruiting per year. General Storm said about 1000. Representative Riggs asked if recruiting places were only in armories. General Storm stated that most are but they do have other places in Paducah, Louisville and Northern Kentucky as well.
General Storm continued with his presentation and discussed the Counter Drug Program. He stated that this part of the organization has been operating since 1989 and that 17 of 24 known terrorist organizations fund their proceeds from drug trafficking. The Counter Drug Program has 75 full-time soldiers involved in supply as well as demand reduction and 34 short tour soldiers during marijuana season from June through September. Colonel Judy Greene-Baker will head a middle school counter drug program. General Storm added that they focus on all drugs in Kentucky however, marijuana is a regional threat. He gave an overview of the number of plants, arrests, and value of marijuana seized in Kentucky between 2003 and 2006.
Senator Roeding asked how the National Guard assisted in these situations. General Storm said they go in with state police, sheriffs, federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Agency in support but are not on the frontline, and they provide vital equipment.
Representative Burch asked about the cost of the program. General Storm said that it costs between five and $5-6 million a year. Representative Burch asked General Storm if he believed the legalization of marijuana would increase or decrease the crime rate across the state. General Storm said he felt it would increase.
General Storm proceeded to bring the Committee up to date on the Military Family Assistance Trust Fund. He said the balance as of August 31, 2007, was $1,078,959.11. He said there have been four applications since August 2, 2007. He stated that for those families that were determined as not qualifying, they are working on finding resources to assist them with. General Storm said the Trust Fund is intended to be a last resort for assistance yet 95% of all inquiries contact the Trust Fund first.
General Storm discussed the Military Death Gratuity stating that an $80,000 death gratuity applies to state active duty with the Guard, Reserves, Navy Reserve, deployed active duty and many others. He said it excludes active duty military and guardsmen stateside. There have been 65 Kentuckians killed in action since the effective date of July 1, 2002, and out of those, 18 are paid to date, two have payments pending, and 45 active duty military do not qualify. He stated that the average annual cost is based on four soldiers per year at $320,000. Co-Chair Pullin request that the committee receive more information on the Military Death Benefits possibly before the session.
Representative Burch asked the amount of a death benefit for an active duty soldier. General Storm stated that it is $100,000. Representative Burch asked what was paid to the guardsmen. General Storm stated it is $80,000. General Storm stated that the $100,000 death gratuity went to the family member designated by the soldier.
Representative C. Belcher asked for clarification on statewide active duty. General Storm said that covers the National Guard because they are the only responding force.
Co-Chair thanked General Storm for his presentation and update and asked if there were any more questions.
Representative Nesler made an announcement KET would be doing a documentary on the war and recognizing and honoring WWII Veterans across the state.
Co-Chair Tori introduced and welcomed Colonel Mark Needham, Garrison Commander, Fort Knox.
Colonel Needham gave an Overview of Fort Knox on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). He stated that the Mission at Fort Knox is to provide installations for tenable soldier and family readiness and provide a quality of life that matches the quality of service they provide to the nation. Colonel Needham provided a video of the plans of transformation at Fort Knox.
Colonel Needham discussed BRAC’s gains and losses. He said that Fort Knox migration estimates their gains in populations from 16,044 in FY03 to 19,780 in FY13. He said more than 1000 are already there. Colonel Needham said the two biggest organizations Fort Knox is gaining are the Human Resources Command and the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He stated that their biggest losses are the Regional Correctional Facility in FY11 and the Armor Center, which will depart to Fort Benning, Georgia.
Colonel Needham briefed the committee on the construction. He stated that there will be $856 million worth of construction from FY06 to FY13. He said most of the money has been awarded. Colonel Needham gave a description of the three phases of construction of the Infantry Brigade Facilities. He stated that Phase I would be $50 million for 600 spaces, Phase II would be $110 million for 841 spaces, and Phase III would be $70 million to finish company operations. He said they have the money and they expect all phases to be completed in February, 2009.
Colonel Needham discussed infrastructure improvements, the expansion of Wilson Road into four lanes, army growth by six brigades and privatized housing. He stated that there are 2,997 homes on Fort Knox and that they are not going to increase that number noting that there is adequate affordable housing off the installation. He stated that the total growth at Fort Knox is approaching 2,000 civilians and about 2,000 military.
Colonel Needham discussed the labor study and the impact in Kentucky. Colonel Needham stated that the single biggest issue with BRAC is workforce development, including recruiting and trading with adequate workforce to do the job in the time of war. The additional growth also has an impact on the community in terms of service. Colonel expressed the importance of schools in the area for families housed outside the gates of Fort Knox, as their children will not be eligible to attend the Department of Defense schools on post. Colonel Needham discussed the Health and Social Service concerns for the civilian population and those military retirees living off post.
Colonel Needham finished his presentation by mentioning that the goal of the housing project is to have 85% of the subcontracts go to local small businesses. He noted that the Area Development District has put together construction forums and that the BRAC construction is also competing with other construction projects in the Louisville area. This demand will further affect the labor force off the base.
Representative Greer complimented Colonel Needham and said that he had helped his district and sure he is helping others in planned growth. He said they were able to build a much bigger school building than they anticipated. Representative Greer asked about the Wilson Road and other entrance gates. Colonel Needham stated that all gates will expand and take all visitors through Bullion Gate and anyone with military stickers or construction equipment will move through other gates.
Representative Greer asked Colonel Needham to encourage accelerating KCTCS and education programs in and around the area because of the demand that they are going to have for those jobs. Colonel Needham said they will get their workforce from dislocated workforce that will not move to Fort Benning, which will have to be retained and educated in jobs such as Human Resource Specialist and Information Technology Specialist. Colonel Needham also mentioned the need to recruit right out of college, so colleges and universities should have scholarships for students who go to a university and promise to work for Fort Knox.
Representative Moore asked Colonel Needham what he recommended as the priorities for the workforce needs, roads, transportation and the infrastructure to move forward and be in place budgetarily or legislatively by 2008. Colonel Needham said transportation is a critical issue, as are schools. Colonel Needham said that the bottom line is that they cannot afford to put road projects at the end of the six year road plan and expect that they will be ready for the people who are getting ready to move there within a year or two.
Senator Roeding asked about post and off-post medical facilities. Colonel Needham stated that they have a hospital already on the installation that has expanded for some growth and are looking to rebuild a new one in the next fiscal year development plan.
Representative C. Belcher suggested a tour of the installation. Colonel Needham said he would be pleased to show the committee around if they come. Co-Chair Tori said it would be in the committee’s future planning and thanked him for all he is doing.
Co-Chair Pullin announced to the committee that on October 4, 2007, the committee will meet at the Ashland Airport in Worthington and that further information will be sent to all members.
Co-Chair Tori introduced Mr. Bob Morey, Special Assistant to Associate Director, Louisville VAMC and Mr. Wayne Pfeffer, Director, Louisville VAMC and asked them to give their update.
Mr. Morey started by stating that in 2004 the Secretary of Veterans Affair's Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) decision stated that the VA would study the need for a replacement hospital for the Louisville VAMC. He stated that the facility was built in 1950 and is not current with technology. The Secretary concluded that the stage one report was validated for a need of a replacement hospital and identified several site locations that would allow collaboration with the University of Louisville and also co-location of the Veteran’s Benefits Administration.
Mr. Morey said a Hurricane Katrina and two VA hospitals that were destroyed or severely damaged have slowed the process for planning appropriate project funding of the new medical center. He said they are moving forward and they chose an architectural engineering firm last year. He said there are in negotiations for the design and they need to locate a site, acquire the land, design the hospital and finally proceed with construction. He stated it takes two to four years to work through the process.
Mr. Morey said a site selection board would be appointed and would have a technical group evaluate each of the potential sites. There would be two or more sites recommended and once that phase of the process was complete. However, they could not move further until there is congressional approval. He said the hospital would cost approximately $532 million and would take 18-20 months to design and 30-60 months to build it.
Co-Chair Tori thanked Mr. Morey and asked if there were questions.
Representative Riggs asked that it be noted that almost one out of five veterans in Kentucky live in Jefferson County. He commented on site selection and stated that veterans that are his constituents have given him feedback that they do not want the site to move from Zorn Avenue. He asked if the facility could be expanded in any direction and has the decision already been made. Mr. Pfeffer replied that there has been no decision made but that it would be an expensive proposition to build on the existing site. He stated that the primary reason is that it would cost approximately $132 million to build a new facility and it would take $100 million more to build on the existing site.
Representative Riner asked how many years it took to get congressional approval for the construction. Mr. Morey said it took two to four years. Representative Riner asked if the damage to the hospitals due to Katrina would take up money for the next several years. Mr. Morey replied that it already has.
Mr. Pfeffer assured the committee that they are maintaining the current infrastructure satisfactorily for patient care with things such as new equipment, renovations and keeping the facility in excellent condition as they realize it could be an eight to ten year proposition before there is a new hospital.
Senator Pendleton said it was good to hear about Fort Knox and expressed his concerns about patients having such a long waiting list for appointments at the VA. He also extended and invitation for the committee to come and visit his area at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Co-Chair Tori stated that the committee will visit there.
Co-Chair Tori introduced and welcomed Sandy Nielsen, Director, Lexington VAMC and Dusty Stines, Public Affairs Officer.
Ms. Nielsen thanked the committee for the opportunity to come and give an update on the Lexington VA Medical Center and what is happening with the Leestown Campus. Ms. Nielsen gave an overview of the Lexington VA Medical Center and said it consist of three locations: the Cooper Drive Division, the Leestown Road Division and the Somerset Community Division. Ms. Nielsen discussed the Lexington’s Catchment Area, meaning the area that the Lexington VAMC serves. She stated there are 37 counties in central Kentucky and they serve about 90,000 veterans. Ms. Nielson further explained how the Lexington Catchment Area fits in with the larger regional area of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Ms. Nielsen discussed the four mandated missions for the VAMC, which are patient care, education, research and national disaster medical system backup. Ms. Nielsen stated that 500 medical and dental residents and 1,100 students trained annually at the Lexington VAMC. She said they have over 110 research projects with about $4.6 million in research funding. She said they also provide back-up during national emergencies and were activated during hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
Ms. Nielsen briefed the committee on the FY07 performance of the Lexington VA Medical Center. Survey results indicated they did well in inpatient overall quality, outpatient satisfaction, provider wait time, appointments for established patients and appointments with new patients.
Ms. Nielsen discussed new things for the Lexington VA Medical Center for 2008 including a Poly-Trauma Center, rehabilitation beds, a blind rehabilitation program, relocating their 60 bed nursing home and moving it into a larger more modernized building, and opening clinics in Morehead, Hazard and possibly Berea. She said they are going through a major expansion of Metal Health Services in response to patient needs from those who served in the Global War on Terrorism.
Ms. Nielsen brought the committee up to date on the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES). She said the CARES study was meant to upgrade facilities to modern, safe and secure standards. The determination in Lexington's case was that this could not be done by renovating existing facilities.
Ms. Nielsen stated there is a lot of square footage that has been vacant for many years and is no longer useable as a healthcare space yet takes funding to maintain. She stated that the determination is that the level of capital expenditures required over the next 20 years to upgrade facilities to modern, safe and secure standards would be far more significant than building a new facility on the property. She stated there is a good market for the excess and underused space to be leased.
Co-Chair Tori asked how many square feet is there in the vacant buildings and how long have they had them. Ms. Nielsen said she did not know the square footage but they had a three floor building that was totally vacant and others with vacant floors and some of the buildings have been vacant for up 10 years. The residential building has been vacant up to 15 years. Co-Chair Tori asked if they could lease, rent, or sell some of this space. Ms. Nielsen said they do not have the ability to sell them but have the ability to lease in some cases, so long as it did not impact the nature of the campus with incompatible programs.
Representative Larry Belcher expressed his concern for the empty buildings and asked why some renovation couldn’t have been done for some type of care. Ms. Nielsen stated that the vacant buildings were built in the 1930’s and simply were not suitable for healthcare and have too many impediments to remodel, explaining that it cost less to build a new facility than to upgrade any of the old ones existing. Ms. Nielsen went on to discuss the strengths weaknesses of building a new facility.
Ms. Nielsen stated that use of the portion of the campus no longer needed after the new facility is constructed would be dictated by the Enhanced-Use Leasing Program, more commonly called reuse, which refers to congressional authority that allows the VA to lease underutilized land or buildings on VA medical campuses.
Ms. Nielsen announced that they are planning a welcome home ceremony in November for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Soldiers in conjunction with the Veterans Day Parade in Lexington.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.