The Carroll County Veterans Independence Project is no longer considering the vacant U.S. Army Reserve building on Malcolm Drive in Westminster for its veterans service center.
After its second federal application to change the use of the building from public safety to homelessness assistance was denied, CCVIP Vice President Ed Cramer said Tuesday the nonprofit voted unanimously to start seeking commercial properties for the center instead.
“They said we didn’t demonstrate the need, or enough experience,” he said after the Veterans Advisory Council meeting Tuesday at Westminster VFW Post 467.
There was also an administrative error on the application, Cramer said.
CCVIP’s stated mission is to help the approximately 13,000 veterans in Carroll County and nearby communities by offering veterans services.
Those services include including homelessness, which affected 48 veterans in the county last year, according to Carroll County's Homeless Management Information System — and an average of 8.75 percent of the national veteran population.
The Malcolm Drive building
From November 2017 up until this week, CCVIP’s plan had been to offer those services at the former Carroll County Memorial U.S. Army Reserve Center, built in 1961 and designed to support and house Army members until two decades ago.
But the process to get into that building has not been easy.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, an ex-officio member of the VAC, said that when the county first acquired the building on Malcolm Drive from the federal government, it was designated for public safety use.
“We jumped the gun putting that designation on it, and to get it changed has been a horrendous project,” he told the Times after the meeting. “And since they denied this, they will take the building back from us.
“We had a 20-year commitment to keep it under public safety,” said Weaver. “They didn’t think we have enough money to support the [CCVIP] project for the next 20 years.”
The commissioner said the people behind CCVIP, however, are military people — and since Plan A didn’t work, they are moving on to Plan B.
“Ed Cramer and Frank Valenti have done a tremendous job trying to get this project together and answer everything,” he said. “They’ve been through the mill on it, but they keep trying. They wont quit.”
Now the nonprofit will have to look for a new location and ramp up its fundraising efforts.
“We are going to be looking at commercial properties in and around the Westminster area to house the Veterans Independence Project,” CCVIP President Frank Valenti told the council at the meeting.
“We have a lot of upcoming fundraising and veterans events. I will be on the radio. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for upcoming things.”
When VAC Chair Larry Burbank asked if the organization had any leads on locations, Valenti said not yet.
“We are going to go with a commercial broker and see,” he said. “I know there’s property on Main Street; I know there’s property out at Tech Court where General Dynamics [is], and other locations. We want to look countywide.”
Weaver said now that there is a definitive answer regarding the former Army building, he hopes to see progress with CCVIP start picking up speed.
He also said he is inspired by the group of veterans involved with the VAC tirelessly working to help other veterans in the county.
“You’ve got a bunch of old guys in here,” said Weaver. “Some have been torn up in different battles and stuff — and they’re all there to help each other out and keep it moving.
“They really try, and they work together. There’s no argument, no fighting. They work toward a common goal.”