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Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny Rep. Lyle Koenen, left, said the biggest challenge facing the effort for a new veterans home will be convincing legislators to commit funds for annual operating costs. Also pictured is Nick Haggenmiller, Montevideo Community Development director, center, and Marvin Garbe, Montevideo council member.

Montevideo to deliver funding offer for vets home

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

MONTEVIDEO -- Montevideo is prepared to bring an offer of $2 million in local funding and ready-made plans to the state capitol in the quest to be a host site for a new veterans home.

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Backers of the proposal are also bringing a message: Minnesota has a moral obligation to meet the needs of its growing and aging population of veterans, no matter the fiscal challenges of the times.

"How are we going to make room for these veterans?'' said Dennis Anderson, veterans service officer in Chippewa County, who soon posed the question: "How can we not?''

Anderson and other members of the Montevideo area veterans home committee hosted state Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, and state Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, at a town meeting Thursday morning at the American Legion hall in Montevideo.

It attracted more than 60 veterans who came to show support for the proposal that goes to the Legislature at the opening of the session next Thursday.

Montevideo and Willmar are among 17 communities with requests for state bond monies to develop new nursing home facilities for veterans.

The Montevideo proposal is for a 90-bed skilled nursing facility.

The veterans home proposed in Willmar would provide both geriatric and mental health care to veterans.

Montevideo is the only community with both ready-made plans for the proposed 90-bed facility and an offer to provide $2 million in local funds toward the project. The offer reduces the bonding monies needed from the state to $8 million.

Backers in Montevideo hope that the ability to reduce the state's share of costs, and the presence of a veterans medical clinic in the community, will prove key elements in persuading legislators to support their proposal.

They also know the challenges. Gov. Tim Pawlenty did not include funding for any new veterans home in his list of bonding projects.

And, an earlier study by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs favored sites that can serve the northwestern portion of the state, where no veteran homes currently exist. The Montevideo and Willmar proposals were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, among the 17 communities in that study.

But no challenge is bigger than the one that the two legislators said they will face on day one of the session: The state's $1.2 billion budget deficit, with predictions of worst yet to come.

Kubly and Koenen said that persuading legislators to include an estimated $4 million to $4.2 million in annual funding to operate a new facility will be extremely difficult. "That is going to be the barrier we face this year,'' said Kubly.

A veteran himself, Kubly said he has visited veterans homes and is more than convinced of the need for the care, and the responsibility to meet it. Many of those now receiving care have lost limbs and suffered other horrible physical and psychological wounds in the service of their country, he said.

Kubly and Koenen said they would work to get a Montevideo project included in the bonding bill, and urged veterans at the town meeting to support the effort. Kubly said he could not guarantee success this session by any means, but he said he was convinced that ultimately a veterans home would be built in Montevideo.

"There will be one here at some time,'' said Kubly.

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