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Soldier's smart home nears construction phase
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J.B. Kerns (right) is pictured with is brother, Chris Kerns, at the summit of Pilot Mountain. According to John Hodge, director of operations with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a contractor will be selected soon to construct a “smart home” for Kerns, who lost his right arm and both legs in Afghanistan. (File photo)

Friday, July 12, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

By DEBBIE HALL

Bulletin Staff Writer

Contractors are being interviewed to construct a smart home for a wounded warrior.

“We are in the final stages of selecting a contractor to build the home,” John Hodge, director of operations with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, said of the home that is planned for retired Marine J.B. Kerns.

Kerns lost both of his legs and his right arm in 2011 when an improvised explosive device exploded during his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The funds needed to build the home have been raised, according to Hodge, who along with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation to create “Building For America’s Bravest.”

Through that program, smart homes, which incorporate technology in a number of features, are built to allow severely wounded veterans to live independently.

Kerns lives in Ararat, “and the house is a pretty technical house with a lot of the smart home features which require a lot of electronics,” Hodge said. Thorough interviews are being conducted with potential contractors to make sure the one selected can “make that happen,” he said.

Hodge said the foundation “had solicited suggestions of contractors from over the entire area. We are very much working on it and we look forward to breaking ground in the next two to four weeks. It’s just a question of finding a contractor at this point.”

Building a modular home for Kerns’ is one option being considered “because it’s taken so long to get on with this” project, Hodge said.

A modular home would allow Kerns to take up residence there quicker than a stick-built home, because the home would be built in a factory while the site work is being done, Hodge said. If built on site, the home construction could not begin until after the site work is completed.

If a modular option is selected, Hodge said “it would still be a custom-home for J.B., but it would be built in a factory rather than stick-built on site.”

Kerns’ home will be on 30 acres overlooking the Ararat River. The land was purchased in 2012, Hodge said.

The cost of the project is not known, Hodge said. Generally speaking, the costs of similar projects average around $500,000, including the land purchase, grading work and everything, he said. “But it varies widely.”

As the contractor interviews continue, Hodge said the foundation is committed to “staying true to his (Kerns’) wish that the home either be a log cabin or have a look and feel of a log cabin.”

Kerns also wanted a wrap-around porch, “and he wanted to be on the river. As far as I know, he’s getting everything he wants at this point, and he deserves it,” Hodge said.

Catherine Christman, also of the foundation, said that by the end of 2013, “we believe (we) will have either broken ground for, or given away 23 keys to” new smart homes for wounded warriors. All of the homes are custom built to the needs of the injured service member, Hodge said.

 

 
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