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Montevideo moves forward on veterans home

Tom Cherveny / Tribune John Handeen, a World War II veteran, was among those Tuesday at a rally in Montevideo who encouraged state legislators to obtain funding for a veterans home. Handeen said it is especially needed to serve Vietnam veterans. 1 / 2
Tom Cherveny / Tribune State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, left, and State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, say they are optimistic about the prospects of obtaining state bonding funds to develop a veterans home in Montevideo. They spoke Tuesday to a rally of more than 100 at the American Legion in Montevideo. 2 / 2

MONTEVIDEO — Two area legislators are optimistic that Montevideo's decade-long quest to build a veterans nursing home may see success in the upcoming session.

State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, and Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, told a rally of over 100 supporters of the veterans home proposal that they believe the community has made significant progress in its bid to find state funding.

"Absolutely getting closer,'' said Miller during a rally Tuesday afternoon at the American Legion in Montevideo.

Their optimism is twofold. The legislators and Marv Garbe, chairman of Montevideo's veterans home committee, pointed out that the effort to secure funding for new veterans home beds in the state is picking up support from more legislators.

And, they said they learned during a meeting with Minnesota's Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, retired Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, that Minnesota is eligible to add 234 skilled beds, or more than was the case during past attempts to win support.

The news means the Legislature will likely consider funding to develop skilled nursing facilities in three communities. Montevideo and Bemidji worked jointly during the last session to seek funding.

The communities are each seeking to develop 70-bed nursing facilities. Montevideo has raised nearly $5 million in pledges, and has offered land toward the state share of costs for a home. If approved, the state and local entities would fund two-thirds the cost of constructing a home, and the federal government one third.

Both Lang and Miller said they intend to pursue funding as part of the state bonding bill to be considered in 2018.

The legislators said they believe there is support in the Legislature for taking on the ongoing operation costs the state would be responsible for as well.

Miller said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, chairwoman of the State Government Finance Committee, has expressed her support for including funding for operations. He noted that some of her support was won when veterans from this area testified on the need for a veterans home in the area during a hearing two years ago in Willmar.

During the last session, the legislators were able to include an appropriation in the Department of Veterans Affairs budget for building a nursing home using general fund monies. The appropriation was taken out of the final legislation of the session at the 11th hour, the two legislators said.

Gov. Mark Dayton did not support using general funds for a capital expenditure. Miller said the governor does not oppose developing the veterans home beds, but the governor had other spending priorities during the final negotiations.

Miller said the importance of taking care of military veterans must be emphasized to the governor.

"Our nation and our state and our people need to get back into the position of fully understanding that the watchmen on the wall are taking care of us and we need to honor them for that,'' Miller said.

Lang said the veterans home proposal is also up against what he termed "hesitation'' on the part of some legislators. They are concerned about the ongoing costs of maintaining and operating a facility, and don't want the state and federal governments to leave that burden on local governments, he explained.

The legislators heard from veterans attending the rally Tuesday on the need for a veterans home, especially for Vietnam veterans. John Handeen, a World War II veteran, said the Vietnam veterans have carried a difficult burden and many need support that can only be provided in the company of other veterans from the same conflict.

"We owe the Vietnam veterans a tremendous debt,'' Handeen said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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