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Monte Veterans Home plans yet another try

Submitted graphic An artist's rendition of the proposed veterans' nursing home in Montevideo. Proponents are planning to return to the capitol for another try at state funding for the project.

MONTEVIDEO - Ten years in the trying, proponents of building a veterans' nursing home in Montevideo remain committed for another attempt to gain state funding support.

Marv Garbe, who has led the effort, and members of the veterans' home committee in Montevideo told the Chippewa County board of commissioners on Tuesday that they will return to the state capitol next year to again propose a dual project with Bemidji.

The cities of Montevideo and Bemidji have proposed that each build 70-bed nursing homes, which would account for the 140 beds the federal government would allow the state to build.

Garbe told the commissioners that the proposal moved forward in the 2017 session, but Governor Mark Dayton would not support a $13 million appropriation for the project that local lawmakers included in funding for the Department of Veteran's Affairs. "He wouldn't give,'' Garbe said. "If it wouldn't have been for that it would have made it through.''

The nursing home proponents had not been able to get support to include funding for the project in the bonding bill, said Garbe. State Senator Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, and State Representative Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, were able to find support to allocate funds in the Veteran's Affairs budget instead.

Montevideo proponents have raised nearly $5 million in pledges from local government units and organizations for the project. Chippewa County pledged $3 million towards the project, which originally called for a 90-bed facility in Montevideo.

The Chippewa County commissioners reiterated support for the project, but told Garbe that it is increasingly difficult for the county to keep that amount of funding earmarked for it. There are many competing needs for the county funds, including a proposal for a broadband project, the commissioners noted.

Due to those concerns, the county has explored the possibility of bonding for the county's commitment. County Auditor/Treasurer Jon Clausen said he has checked with the county's bond consultant, Ehlers and Associates, and it appears the county may have the option of using a tax abatement bond to raise funds. He said additional work would be needed by the financial consultant to confirm that bonding would be a viable option for the county.

Jim Dahlvang, chair of the board, said the commissioners have also heard from their colleagues in neighboring counties which have pledged towards the project. They too have expressed the difficulties they face in setting aside funding for a lengthy period for a project that is not yet approved.

As proposed to the legislature, the local funds would be matched by federal and state funds towards an estimated, $30 million total. If the state approves funding during the 2018 session, it could still take up to four years to win federal approval to move forward with the project, Garbe told the commissioners.

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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