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Monte expects bonding bill to include vet home

Tom Cherveny / Tribune Dave Swenson of rural Montevideo is among the more than 100 veterans gathered Monday at the American Legion in Montevideo to let staff members of U.S. Sen. Tina Smith know of their support for a skilled nursing home for veterans in Montevideo. Organizers are expecting an announcement Wednesday that the proposal will be in the Minnesota House bonding bill. 1 / 2
Tom Cherveny / Tribune Doug Border of Clarkfield is among the more than 100 veterans gathered Monday at the American Legion in Montevideo to let staff members of U.S. Sen. Tina Smith know of their support for a skilled nursing home for veterans in Montevideo. Organizers are expecting an announcement Wednesday that the proposal will be in the Minnesota House bonding bill. 2 / 2

MONTEVIDEO — Over 100 supporters of a veterans nursing home in Montevideo applauded news that they expect the project will be included in bonding bills to be released Wednesday by Republican leaders in the Legislature.

"It appears they will fund all three homes,'' Marv Garbe, who has led the Montevideo campaign for a veterans home, said during a gathering Monday afternoon at the American Legion in Montevideo.

"I think it is going to happen,'' Garbe said.

The supporters had gathered for a meeting on veterans issues with members of U.S. Sen. Tina Smith's staff. Organizers of the veterans home campaign had encouraged supporters to attend and show their support.

Just moments before the meeting, Garbe said he received a call from State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, who said there will be an announcement Wednesday morning on the inclusion of the veterans home in the state bonding bill. He also asked that supporters of the home attend a hearing in the State Senate that morning on the bonding request, according to Garbe.

Funding to build 70-bed, skilled nursing facilities in Montevideo, Bemidji and Preston will be in the bonding bills, Garbe said he was told. The state must fund one-third of the cost, or an estimated $14 million per facility. The federal government would fund the remainder.

Montevideo has been campaigning for a veterans home for 11 years now, and has raised $5 million in pledges to reduce the state's share of costs for a home.

Garbe emphasized that supporters of the home will have to work hard in the days ahead to assure that the funding remains in a final bonding bill. And, he warned that there is also the likelihood that Minneapolis will be competing for veterans home funding.

If the Legislature approves funding, a veterans home would still be some years in the future. The state would need to apply for the federal funding, with hopes that it would be approved for the federal fiscal year starting in October 2020.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was allocated $377 million in the most recent federal budget for new nursing home construction, Alex Schueller, constituent services representative for Sen. Smith, told the Montevideo audience. He said guidelines for selecting projects to fund currently favor rural requests.

The urgency now, Garbe said, is to contact and send letters of support to the chairs of the committees in the state House and Senate that will decide the fate of the funding requests. In the House, they are Reps. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, Capital Investment; and Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, State Government Finance. In the Senate, they are Sens. David Senjem, R-Rochester, Capital Investment; and Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, State Finance.

Tom Cherveny

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

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