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Editorial: Lobbying plan for vet home needs OK

The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Commission operating board recently voted 2-3 against recommending a lobbying effort for the proposed veterans' nursing home and mental health care facility in Willmar.

The operating board's decision was a penny-wise and pound-foolish decision. It might even reflect a lack of understanding of political reality.

Hopefully, the EDC's joint powers board next week will have a better understanding of the need and approve the EDC lobbying plan in 2010 for the veterans' nursing home project.

The proposed $21 million project is a 90-bed veteran nursing home specializing in geriatric care for veterans with severe mental health illness. The facility also would provide inpatient care for veterans with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorders or veterans with dual diagnosis of mental illness and chemical dependency.

There is no doubt this is a needed facility for veterans in our region as well as the state. The growing elderly vet population and the return of Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will only increase this need.

Willmar also needs this project from an employment perspective. Our city has the appropriate work force necessary for such a facility.

More importantly, the Willmar project is already on the federal and state Veterans Affair lists as a needed geriatric care project. Thus, it can be eligible for federal and state funding. Minnesota is not currently looking to build a non-geriatric care facility.

The Willmar vet home project has passed the state House several times in recent years under the guidance of Rep. Al Juhnke, D-Willmar.

Unfortunately, Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, has not been able to get this project approved in the Senate for whatever reasons. The fact is the Willmar project was not even included in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's latest 2010 bonding proposal.

As we said earlier this month, it is time for Willmar officials, including all politicians and EDC board members, to put politics behind and support the proposed Willmar veterans' home concept.

We commend the EDC, city and county officials for their past efforts on this project.

This is a needed facility for the veterans of our region and state. This is a needed facility for Willmar's economic future.

The fact remains that with the project not being on the governor's 2010 bonding list and its lack of Senate support in the past, Willmar has some work to do to gain legislative approval. Willmar needs some lobbying expertise to help complete Legislative approval.

Not to utilize a lobbying effort at this stage of the proposal would be simply political stupidity.

We encourage the EDC's joint powers board to approve the proposed lobbying effort in support of the Willmar veterans' home proposal.

It is a necessary and critical investment in the veteran's home proposal as well as the future of the Willmar economy.