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Officials hope for spring opening of Hingham's Fort Hill Veterans' House

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 14, 2011 07:43 AM

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Officials are expecting the Fort Hill Veterans House in Hingham to be finished by the spring although the project is still waiting on state funding, project officials said.

Although mired in controversy, mitigation, and more recently compromise for over a year, the six-person permanent home for veterans in need will finally see construction in October, officials said.

It’s taken months to get to this point. Initially neighbors were unsure what the mission of the veterans home would be and how it would be run. Town officials also feared bringing troubled people into quiet neighborhoods.

After pulling all parties together to discuss how Father Bill’s would work with the town to select participants and run the veterans’ shelter, selectmen voted the home into approval this past January.

Since then, officials have been figuring out how to obtain the state funding necessary for the $1.3 million project.

According to officials, town will put in $250,000 from Community Preservation Funds and $50,000 from the affordable housing trust. The remaining funding will come from a combination of federal money and privately- fundraised support.

As the state funding is not yet available, John Yazwinski, the CEO of Father Bill’s, said the shelter would take out a loan to begin construction in the interim.

“We’ve got the commitment from the state and the town and we’re moving toward a closing with the state and the town. With the state, we’ll looking at a significant amount of time, maybe a year or more until we get he actual funds, so we’ve got a construction loan with Rockland Trust that will allow us to start construction and not wait for the funds to be dispersed to us,” Yazwinski said.

The bridge funding is important to get the project off and running, especially as the need for this type of housing is apparent even now., Yazwinski said.

“We have veterans in need,” he said. “We would hope to be finished by early spring. We were hoping to start maybe a month ago, but with some of these different sign offs, it’s been a bit delayed.”

The approval from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) organization, which came in this week, saying that the project would have no environmental impact only helps to further the progress of the project

“We’re just about there,” said Betty Foley, Hingham’s assistant town administrator.

Some are surprised it has even taken this long.

“I thought it would be done prior to this, but the wheels of state bureaucracy turn slowly, so that’s all part of it. We would have expected it to be moving ahead much more rapidly, but we’re faced with whatever schedule will provide in terms of the state’s permission,” said Jim Claypool, a member of the Veterans Council who was a part of the program’s negotiations.

Yet for others, it’s a tremendous accomplishment to even be at this point this soon.

“What some people see as long delays is what is [normal] for most communities for large or small projects, especially as you develop affordable housing,” Yazwinski said. “When you’re getting public resources there are many more checks and balances and due diligence that need to be performed.”

Regardless of how long it has taken, Yazwinski is just excited to get the process started and off the ground.

“We very much look forward to working with Hingham housing authority, our partnet, to provide project based subsitides, choosing the people we look forward with veterans services and veterans agent to respond to the veterans need in the community and having a resource in the south shore area, so they don’t have to come to fater bills and mainspring to get shelter,” he said.

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