Perseverance, key 'pivot points' bring veterans home to Montevideo
MONTEVIDEO — It took perseverance and key "pivot points" to bring Montevideo's 11-year-long campaign for a veterans nursing home to its successful conclusion, lawmakers told supporters of the home on Wednesday.
They spoke at a celebration at the American Legion Club in Montevideo to thank those who supported the effort to secure state funding for the home. More than 200 of the supporters gathered first for a group photograph at the future site of the home.
One of the critical steps was taken at the site when the state Senate's Capital Investment Committee toured it in November 2015. It was a "windy, rainy and dark" night, Marv Garbe, who led the veterans home campaign, reminded those who gathered for the group photo.
He feared the weather would keep away supporters, but instead, Garbe said he was brought to tears when he saw the large crowd waiting to greet the visiting legislators.
"That point set the tone and demonstrated how much the veterans and the community supported the project,'' Garbe said.
State Sen. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, credited the persistence of supporters who continued to show up at legislative hearings over all the years for the project's success.
"These opportunities, sometimes they come to our committee and we hear about them and we go yup, and they die. Yup, and they die. But you are troopers. You people did not give up,'' Anderson said.
State Reps. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, and Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, also cited the importance of the supporters perseverance. "Don't forget it. It was your perseverance that made this happen," Miller said.
Miller also pointed to two "pivot points" as critical. One occurred in February 2016 in Willmar, when supporters spoke at a hearing on veterans issues. World War II veteran John Handeen of Montevideo spoke about the need for the veterans home as being not for himself, but for those who would follow him. His message made Dettmer, as chairman of the House Veterans Affair Committee, and Sarah Anderson, as chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, proponents of the project.
"She (Anderson) walked away and said 'we've got to do something,' it made that big of an impression," Miller said.
He credited Brian Cook, a research consultant with the House of Representatives, with making possible the other big turning point. It was Cook who came up with the idea of tapping a reserve fund for the Vikings stadium to fund the veterans homes. It proved a game changer, according to Miller.
While the governor and others opposed tapping the stadium fund, the conversation now changed, Miller said.
"We were no longer talking about if we were going to do it. We were talking about how we were going to do it.''
The Legislature included $32 million in the bonding bill to build 70-bed homes in Montevideo, Preston and Bemidji. Supporters are now urging Congress to make available the federal matching funds needed for the project.
Garbe told supporters that Montevideo is close to raising an additional $700,000 for the project after learning its offer of land and infrastructure as part of the $5 million local pledge could not be counted. Wold Architects has been named architects for the project, and will be meeting with groups in Montevideo to gather input for the design in coming months, he said.