HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Earlier this week, we told you about how the state has selected a design firm to create a renovation blueprint for the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

The state has ordered a study of the home after 76 residents died, testing positive COVID-19.

A coalition is sounding the alarm about living conditions in the home is now voicing concern about the design and planning process.

Renovation designs for the home must be largely completed before April 15 of next year.

Paul Barabani, a former superintendent of the home, said he wants community input to be considered.

"We’ve dealt with Payette when the 2012 plan was developed," Barabani explained.

Barabani was superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home eight years ago when he said the Payette architecture firm designed a renovation and construction project that never came to fruition.

Barabani, who represents a coalition of advocates for the home, said he’s glad the familiar Payette was selected to design a new renovation project to improve the facility ravaged by COVID-19.

According to the state, the designs must be completed by April 15, 2021 to be eligible for federal funds through the VA.

The project must also go through a certified study from the state to get Massachusetts dollars.

State officials told Western Mass News that the 2012 design previously championed by Barabani was not approved.

Barabani said in 2020, he is still waiting for the state to ask for the community’s input in the design.

"That should be at the beginning before they develop any plan. OItherwise, they'd have to modify what they’ve already begun," Barabani noted.

In light of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Barabani is pushing for more changes than proposed in 2012. He wants to see 250 beds, private bathrooms and showers for residents, and adult day health care.

His biggest concern is that any project not adding new buildings to the campus could reduce the number of vets able to live at the home.

"If, in fact, they intend to constrain the construction to the existing building, that could amount in, maybe, a 50 percent reduction in the number of veterans that could be served," Barabani added.

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