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Harriman officials aim to fill up once-bustling medical facilities

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By Cindy Simpson

Harriman officials and area veterans dream big for a VA hospital in the former Roane Medical Center facility downtown.

Officials also want to see the downtown buildings that once held medical facilities along Devonia Street taken out of city ownership and utilized.

It’s something Councilman J.D. Sampson championed recently, talking about giving it to developers for residential projects.

Mayor Chris Mason said they’ll be tackling the project head on this spring.

“In May, we are having an open house for all of the buildings,” Mason said. “We hope to advertise locally, regionally and some nationally to let people know about the properties we have.”

He said there has been a lot of interest, and in May the city can start a request for proposals process.

“So if a developer wants to do something like J.D. was mentioning that would be the time to say, ‘hey, here is what I would like to do with the property, here is what I would pay,’” Mason said.

The Harriman Industrial Development Board would then go through them and decide which was best for the vision for downtown.

The dream of a VA hospital in Harriman, which is centrally located between the VA hospitals in Johnson City and Murfreesboro, hasn’t been forgotten.

Many veterans and their supporters believe this would be ideal both for veterans who struggle to make the trek to either of the closest hospitals and the community’s economy.

Mason traveled to Washington, D.C., to pitch the proposal to federal officials about the facility, which became vacant last month when Covenant Health moved operations to a new state-of-the-art facility in Harriman’s centrally located Midtown area.

He’s talked about using it as a nursing home, but said now, based on their system, the nursing home wouldn’t be a good fit.

Mason had hoped to meet with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander during his time in Washington.

He believes that Alexander’s support in addition to the representatives already on board would go a long way toward making the project a reality.

He’s encouraged people to write the senator.

Some of Alexander’s staff have toured the facility.

Alexander’s office said Friday the senator was busy with federal spending cuts and unable to comment before press time.