Push for Monte vets home faces new funding challenge


GRANITE FALLS — A new challenge has emerged as Montevideo renews its efforts for state bonding to develop a veterans nursing home.

Along with its share of costs for building a facility, the state of Minnesota would need to place funds in an account to cover the operational costs for the home during its start-up years, according to State Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, a member of the Senate Capital Investment Committee. "It has to be committed money,'' said Dahms.

Dahms and Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, jointly held a town hall meeting Monday in Granite Falls.

Dahms and members of the Capital Investment Committee were in Montevideo two weeks earlier to hear proponents and local legislators Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, and Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, discuss the community's 11-year effort to construct a veterans home.

Montevideo is seeking state bond funds to help construct a 70-bed nursing care facility. It is estimated to cost $43,700,000 to construct. The state would be responsible for one-third, or $14 million of the total. The federal government would be responsible for two-thirds of the construction cost.

Montevideo has raised over $5 million in pledges toward the project, which reduces the amount of state bonding funds needed to around $9 million.

Dahms said the need to put aside dollars to cover operational costs puts a new wrinkle into the effort.

Initial estimates indicate it would cost $5 million a year to operate. Not all of the costs would be the state's to bear. However, Dahms said the state would still be required to put the dollars aside — and do so up front — to cover all of the costs before it could be reimbursed.

"It has to be guaranteed so that there's no question it is going to make it for the first so many years,'' he said.

Dahms said he is expecting a bonding bill to be approved this session in the range of $800 million to $900 million. Gov. Mark Dayton has submitted his proposal for $1.5 billion in bonding.

Other regional needs

Participants at the town hall meeting in Granite Falls also cited a variety of regional issues they want addressed. There is a need for more mental health beds in the region; child care and affordable housing for low-income and working families; broadband infrastructure; funding for municipal water and wastewater infrastructure; and transportation.

Nancy Straw, director of United Community Action Partnership, described the housing and child care needs in terms of "severe" and "very serious." Peg Heglund, Yellow Medicine County administrator, said counties throughout the region are looking for ways to meet the need for more mental health beds so that patients can be treated closer to their homes and families.

Granite Falls Mayor David Smiglewski cited the region's infrastructure needs. He also voiced frustration over the challenges in finding transportation funds to improve access to the Twin Cities from the west.

He said the state shared costs of over $600 million with the state of Wisconsin to build the new Stillwater bridge. It essentially provides access for Wisconsin residents to jobs and amenities in the metropolitan area, he said.

"How about those of us who live in Minnesota,'' said Smiglewski when speaking of efforts to fund improvements to U.S. Highway 212.