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Hubbard County support sought for Bemidji veterans home

Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer Scotty Allison spoke with the Hubbard County Board Tuesday to gauge their interest in helping fund a new veterans home in Bemidji.

In May, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bonding bill that included $32 million for the construction of three new veterans homes in the state.

Of that appropriation, $12.4 million was dedicated to Bemidji, $9.4 million to Montevideo and $10.2 million for Preston.

The Beltrami County Board has pledged $1 million toward the project. The fundraising goal is $2.5 million, Allison said.

Allison said, thus far, he has met with five of 15 neighboring counties to seek their financial support. Roseau County will contribute $35,000.

Donations from all other sources — townships, VFWs, Bemidji American Legion, DAV Chapter 7 — currently stand at $78,500. Corporate donations are also sought.

The state bonding money and local contributions result in a 65 percent match from the federal government. "So for every dollar we raise, we get $2 bucks back from the federal government to built this facility," Allison said.

The vets home will be a 72-bed facility built on 15 acres donated by Sanford Health in Bemidji. The land value is estimated at $1 million.

Skilled nursing care, hospice and long-term rehabilitation are among the services that will be provided. The 72,000-square-foot home is anticipated to cost $43.7 million to construct and roughly $10 million per year to operate.

"As you know, some of your county lies close to me, like Laporte and Lake George. I have quite a few veterans deep into Hubbard County that use the VA clinic up there, so we know some amount of the vets going into the home are going to come from Hubbard County," Allison said. That number will depend on needs and timing.

There is room to expand the facility, Allison said. "It'll be full from the moment it's open. It'll be full for the next 40 years," he said. "All of our facilities in Minnesota right now are on a six- to eight-month waiting list."

According to the Bemidji Pioneer, advocates for the Northern Minnesota Veterans Home have been working on the project for more than a decade. Proponents base the need on a veteran population of nearly 27,800 in northwest Minnesota.

The proposed timeline calls for estimated local pledges by Aug. 31, a designer selected by Sept. 30, pledges placed in escrow by March 23, submittal to the Veterans Administration by April 1, and construction to begin in December 2020. The home is anticipated to open by May 2021.

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