Copas groundbreaking ceremony draws Scott

The Florida Department of Veteran Affairs has confirmed that Gov. Rick Scott, a Navy veteran, plans on attending the long-awaited groundbreaking for the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home.

“He will be there,” said Steve Murray, communications director.

The Tuesday, March 20 ceremony will be at 2 p.m. at the end of Tradition Parkway near The Brennity at Tradition and Renaissance Charter School at Tradition.

“The ceremony is open to the general public,” Murray said. “We’re expecting a crowd greater than 200.”

Murray said a local ad hoc planning committee has done much of the legwork he normally does for state veterans department events, and it’s a sign of how eager Port St. Lucie is to get the home.

“We’ve got a group of 10 or 12 folks who are part of the committee,” Murray said.

Wayne Teegardin, manager of St. Lucie County’s veterans services, is on the committee. He said area businesses and organizations have enthusiastically pitched in with help and donations.

“We found some sponsors for some of the portions of the event,” he said. “The county and City of Port St. Lucie are footing the cost of some of the event.”

The ceremony will start on the northern side of Tradition Parkway. In addition to the governor, other dignitaries will speak.

“Al Carter, from FDVA, is going to speak for sure,” Teegardin said. Carter is the deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs.

Teegardin said Frannie Hutchinson, chairwoman of the St. Lucie County Commission, will likely speak.

He said when the county was offered a chance to vie for what would be the state’s seventh veterans nursing home in 2014, Hutchinson led a rapid and forceful push to get it built in St. Lucie.

The ceremony will have covered seating for about 200. Teegardin figured it’ll be about half an hour long. “When everybody’s done speaking, it’s a walk across the street to the site to the groundbreaking,” he said. A reception at Tradition Town Hall will follow. Tradition Town Hall is at 10490 SW Village Center Drive, about two miles east of the ceremony. Teegardin said Tradition Town Hall is also the inclement weather location for the ceremony. Light refreshments will be served.

In previous interviews, Glenn Stuphin, executive director of the state veterans department, said the 121,000-square-foot facility should be opened by 2020. The state now has six veteran nursing homes and a living facility. They stay at capacity, about 120 residents each. The last veterans nursing home the state built opened in 2010. That was the Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Augustine.

Murray has repeatedly told St. Lucie Voice that, when built, the home will employ about 190 and add more than $7 million a year in wages to Port St. Lucie, along with another $5 million in locally-purchased products and services.

Parking for the groundbreaking will be limited, and many will park along Tradition Parkway. Teegardin urged healthy attendees to park farther away to leave as many closer parking spots as possible for people with mobility difficulties.

“We’re also urging them to carpool as much as possible, to reduce the number of vehicles,” Teegardin said.   

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