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Property owners learn EIS importance

HOT SPRINGS – A large crowd of approximately 200 people attended the first of what will likely be several meetings to work on responses for the upcoming Veterans Administration-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the proposal to close the Hot Springs VA facility.

Several important informational points were shared at what was termed as a ‘pre-EIS meeting,’ but the overlying idea of the gathering was that everyone needs to provide his or her input to the process.

“The only guaranteed outcome in this process,” said Save the VA executive board member Bob Nelson, “is if we don’t do anything. That’s a guarantee that we will lose.”

Fellow board member Amanda Campbell, who is familiar with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, of which the EIS is an integral part, encouraged all in attendance to write down the affect that closing the VA could have on them.

“What does it mean to you as a property owner (if the VA closes)?” she asked. “This is the one law that mandates that what you say must be listened to,” Campbell said. “They (the VA) don’t have to do what we say but they HAVE TO LISTEN.”

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Following the meeting, Campbell outlined the process in more detail and again reiterated that the time to begin working on ideas and alternatives is now.

“We have an alternative in place right now,” Campbell said, referring to the counterproposal that Save the VA unveiled nearly two years ago, “and it has been widely supported. But maybe there are other ideas, something that will make (Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric) Shinseki say ‘Wow,’ when he sees it.”

Those in attendance were encouraged to write down how closing the Hot Springs VA would affect them as property owners. Then, event organizer Tim Theusch asked each table to share some of the affects they had come up with.

“Now is the perfect time to fire a pre-emptive strike,” Campbell said. “To make the VA-hired contractor sit up and say, ‘They know what they are talking about.’ The purpose tonight is to get the conversation started so when it comes time to make our alternative recommendation to the EIS contractor, we are prepared.”

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