Mayor visits federal officials, discusses possibility of veterans hospital
Cris Ritchie — Editor
HAZARD – Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman renewed a call to bring a veterans hospital to Perry County during recent meetings with members of Kentucky’s federal delegation in Washington, D.C.
Gorman first began an effort to lure a VA facility to Hazard in early 2011 after winning a full term in office, noting at the time that Perry County is ideally suited to be able to support such a facility for veterans living in the region. Late last month Gorman met with Rep. Hal Rogers and Sen. Mitch McConnell in separate visits to the nation’s capital, showing her support for their work in the past years while also renewing a push to locate a veterans hospital in Hazard.
“I asked them for consideration in the future,” Gorman said, adding there has been talk of state officials discussing the placement of such a facility in other counties. “It won’t come along now, but some day there will have to be another hospital here.”
Eastern Kentucky has the highest population of veterans per capita, Gorman noted, with 10 percent of the population having served in some capacity in the United States military.
“As of now, we have 344,000 veterans,” she said. “That’s significant. We here in Eastern Kentucky have always signed up to go to war, and men and women have always been dedicated to serve their country. I think the reason it’s this way, they really appreciate their freedom, the freedom the mountains offer them, and the state of Kentucky and our country.”
Hazard is one of four communities in Kentucky to have a veterans nursing home within city limits, something Gorman said is a bonus for the city.
Gorman also took the opportunity to discuss other issues, including certification for people who have not earned a high school degree or equivalent. One idea would be to promote job training with a lesser certificate with basic math and life skills, something she said Rep. Rogers seemed to agree with.
Two things Gorman said she did not discuss with McConnell or Rogers were coal and jobs. Both men are well aware of the status of the coal industry in the region, she noted, and economic development at the local level is something that has to take root with the people who live here, rather than federal and state officials planting the seeds.
“Part of our business is looking at less support from federal and state,” Gorman said. “I think we should think beyond the traditional boundaries, which has been our natural resources. We need to invest more for tomorrow and other ways, which we’ll have to do ourselves.”
Gorman said the massive losses in employment stemming for workforce reduction in the regional coal industry have, in a way, shocked the region into looking for other avenues of development. Perry County already has a lot going for it, she noted, including the expanding ARH medical center, the college, a local TV station, and the river flowing through the downtown area. It will take a spark from the people who live and work here to get further development to come to life, something she noted her late husband, the former Mayor Bill Gorman, was able to do with projects like the dam at Buckhorn resulting in Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.
“It’s up to us, and we don’t have to be the biggest or the best,” she said. “What we want to do is stand high in what we have. We’ve got plenty here to work on, and there’s a lot of potential here.”
Ultimately, Gorman said she thinks her visit to Washington, D.C. was an investment for Hazard, and she expects to continue making contact with state and federal officials in the near future, including a visit with Gov. Steve Beshear.
“I want an individual visit with him as I did with these people, and I expect to do that before January, within this next month,” Gorman said. “I’m not going to ask him for anything. I’m going to tell him what I think and see if he can help me with helping our veterans.”
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