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Veterans home on pace to raise pledged funds in Montevideo

Tribune file photo Marv Garbe has led the veterans home campaign in Montevideo. 1 / 2
Tribune file photo Supporters of the Montevideo Veterans Home joined under rainy skies in November 2015 at the site for the home to show support for visiting legislators. Montevideo has learned that its offer of land and infrastructure cannot be counted as a financial contribution. A fundraising effort is underway to make up for the funds.2 / 2

MONTEVIDEO — Like running in a marathon, supporters of a veterans nursing home in Montevideo kept a steady campaign alive for 11 years, rallying volunteers and making numerous trips to the State Capitol to testify.

The final sprint to the finish line isn't so easy either, but the ribbon is definitely in site.

The supporters are now collecting the nearly $5 million in local funds pledged to leverage the state bonding funds that the Legislature awarded for the 70-bed facility. It started with an unexpected hurdle. The city of Montevideo learned that its pledge of land and infrastructure for the project, valued at $700,000, could not be counted as part of the local financial contribution.

"This fundraising is harder than going down and testifying,'' laughed Marv Garbe, who has led the veterans home campaign.

Garbe said he is confident that a campaign underway to raise the additional funds through private contributions will be successful by month's end, when the funds are required by the state. Garbe said the fundraising is making very good headway. "We're going to make our goal,'' he said.

He's also upbeat about the prospects of seeing the home built sooner than was originally expected. He said ground could be broken on the project next fall with occupancy in May 2021, or easily a year earlier than what was once considered an optimistic time table.

Chippewa County pledged $3 million toward the project. The County Board of Commissioners reaffirmed the commitment at its meeting Tuesday, while also beginning discussions on how best to raise the funds. The state wants the funds in an escrow account by Nov. 1.

Michelle May, auditor/treasurer, outlined to the commissioners two options for raising the funds. The county could tap existing reserve funds and raise its levy in future years to replenish the reserve account.

Or, it could issue general obligation, tax abatement bonds for the funds or a portion of them. Since the nursing home will not be owned by the county, and it will not generate taxes, it cannot be considered as collateral for a traditional general obligation bond issue, May told the commissioners Tuesday.

She said discussions with financial consultants indicated that the county could back a general obligation bond by forgoing property taxes from designated parcels of land. At this point, the financial impact of a 10-year, $3,085,000 bond is estimated at $27.76 annually on a residence valued at $200,000, according to an analysis completed for the county.

Steve Condon, chief financial officer with Citizens Alliance Bank, Clara City, met with the commissioners Tuesday. He said the county can sell a general obligation bond issue on the open market, or it could negotiate a sale with a local financial institution. A negotiated sale could help reduce some of the usual costs for bonds, including the roughly $10,000 cost for a credit analysis.

Condon said Citizens Alliance thinks highly of the project and is interested in working with the county on it.

While the commissioners said they would prefer not to issue bonds, they noted that relying entirely on reserve funds would put the county in a very tight financial position. And, it would limit the county's ability to address other needs.

One of those needs is for improvements to the county's social services building. Board chairman Jeffrey Lopez noted that a recent analysis indicates that while the building is structurally sound, it may not be feasible to update and modernize the interior.

Lopez said the commissioners will have to look at the entire picture and demands on county resources as they decide how to put together the funds.

The neighboring counties of Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine have each pledged $50,000 toward the project and the respective county boards have recently reaffirmed their commitments.

Tom Cherveny

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

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