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Dom fills a need

Why close a facility that is doing what the government wants it to?

A Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman insists speculation the facility formerly known as the VA Domiciliary might close is exceedingly premature. We ' and thousands of veterans ' are exceedingly hopeful that she is right.

Known for years locally as the Dom, the campus of brick buildings along Highway 62 in White City has evolved into much more than a nursing home for elderly veterans. Renamed this year the Veterans Affairs Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics, the domiciliary now serves 8,500 outpatients.

With an annual budget of &

36;41 million, its impact on the Rogue Valley's economy is &

36;28 million, according to the VA. Its regional role in the VA system dovetails with the valley's position as a regional center for retail trade and medical care.

The largest independent rehabilitation center in the VA system, the domiciliary provides education, job training and substance abuse treatment. Several clinics have been created, including a chronic pain clinic and a diabetes clinic.

Supposedly, that heavy emphasis on outpatient services is exactly what the VA wants from its facilities. So why even consider the possibility of closing it?

— The reason the facility is on the potential closure list, according to one VA spokesman, is that its buildings wouldn't hold up well in an earthquake.

Neither would many public buildings in the Rogue Valley, including a number of schools. Those haven't been closed, for obvious reasons.

The biggest concern in an earthquake is essential emergency services such as hospital emergency rooms, police departments and dispatchers, and public utilities. Damage to outpatient clinics would be inconvenient, but hardly life-threatening.

Our biggest concern about the domiciliary's future is the Bush administration's penchant for turning over government functions to private contractors. We sincerely hope the earthquake safety issue is not just a smoke screen for cutting back services to veterans at a time when the government is asking more of its military personnel than this country has in many years.

A public hearing on the domiciliary's future is planned next month. We expect the testimony to be overwhelmingly supportive of keeping it intact. And we expect the VA to conclude quickly that closing this vital facility would be tremendously shortsighted and a disservice to those who have served this country faithfully.

Paths for all

A proposal to widen the intersection of McAndrews Road and Crater Lake Avenue will require some give and take from everyone if it is to become a reality.

Providence Medford Medical Center ' not enthralled by the city's plan to use some of its property on the busy corner ' has submitted its own proposal. Bicycle advocates find fault with Providence's plan to replace two five-foot-wide bike lanes with 10-foot, multi-use paths meandering through the corner property.

The City Council considered modifying the original road-widening project at the request of hospital officials by sacrificing the bike lanes altogether. This, of course, angered the bicyclists.

The hospital's proposal for multi-use paths is no help, the cyclists say, because bike commuters ride 15 to 20 mph and would be a danger to other users.

This is where we stop for a red light. We see no reason why bicyclists can't slow down for a short distance. Bicyclists already successfully share the Bear Creek Greenway path with walkers, runners and skaters. They can do the same there.