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State plans visit for vets home: Area officials meet with DVA to plan next steps

BEMIDJI, Minn.—Proponents of a veterans home in Bemidji met with state officials in St. Cloud, Minn., last week to facilitate the application process for federal dollars.

Beltrami County representatives were joined by officials from Montevideo and Preston, Minn., the other two communities looking to build veterans homes. Last month, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bonding bill that included $32 million for the construction of three new veterans homes in the communities.

Of that appropriation, $12.4 million was dedicated to Bemidji, $9.4 million to Montevideo and $10.2 million for Preston. Nationwide, these homes are built with state and local governments covering 35 percent of the costs and the federal government providing the remaining 65 percent.

The Thursday, June 21, meeting was convened by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

"They talked with us about the timeline for the applications that will be sent to the federal government for funding," Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack said. "The communities received realistic information about the federal government being in control now. We'll get our applications sent in and do the best job we can and leave it up to them."

Mack said the state will have a process to select the designers and architects for the projects by September. The local communities, meanwhile, were asked at the meeting to provide information about the proposed sites. This information, Mack said, can include square footage, terrain, land surveys and nearby utilities.

Minnesota DVA representatives plan to visit the Bemidji site on Friday morning, June 29. The plan is to build the 70-bed structure on 15 acres of land donated by Sanford Health on the north side of Bemidji.

All of the site data is expected to be completed and submitted by Aug. 1 and the DVA requested the total amount of local contributions be prepared by Aug. 31. The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners already has dedicated $1 million toward the project. In the weeks ahead, Mack said local officials will meet with neighboring county governments to see if they are willing to contribute.

In total, the project is estimated to cost roughly $45 million. Mack also said that designs are expected to be done and sent to the federal government with the applications in March 2019. The federal government will then release a priority list in January 2020 and grants for projects on that list will be signed in September 2020. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs requires construction to be complete within five years of receiving the grant.

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 27,000 in northwest Minnesota.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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