Oct 11, 2019 | By: Malaak Khattab

Veteran Affairs Commissioner Discusses Revised Plans For Bemidji Veterans Home

The Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs visited Bemidji today to discuss the proposed veterans home to city and county leaders.

A small meeting was held to talk about updates to the veterans home. The three main areas that were discussed involved the plan for the home, the design of the facility and the federal funding request.

“My intent was to assure the task force that we were still on schedule and that we are well within budget and that all the requirements from the federal government have been met,” said Larry Herke, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner.

Herke says the design of the facility will still remain the same and the layout is consistent with what the Northern Minnesota Veterans Home Task Force has seen previously. He says they did have to downsize certain parts of the home like common areas, community rooms, and the basement to remain within the budget. But he stressed that the veterans homes will still have individual rooms and individual bathrooms.

“It’s going to be very small impact on the veterans, everything that we wanted and dreamed off originally is still in the plan, so I think that’s the most thing,” Herke said.

The veterans home will be a state run facility, meaning the state is responsible for the design of the building, the staff and all of the services.

Beltrami County Commissioner Jim Lucachick says they’ve been good with communication and keeping the taskforce updated on the proposed project. He says the veterans home will have a positive impact on the Bemidji community.

“It will definitely bring folks in from the northern part of our state of Minnesota. The whole purpose of the selection of the site here in Bemidji is that we have almost 30,000 veterans that are in the northern and western portion of our state that have to travel a long way to get a veterans home opportunity,” Lucachick said.

One of the biggest challenges the veteran nursing home faces here in Bemidji is federal funding.

“We are actually competing against the renovations and modernization of a lot of the facilities that already exist throughout the state level. So, we might be competing against a project in Alabama, and California and so forth. And usually, the way that the federal VA will work is they’ll fund those types of projects first and then they’ll fund the new beds second,” Herke said.

They’re also working on staffing the facilities. Herke says they will need over 100 employees from administrators to certified nursing assistants.

The total budget for the project is just over $40 million. They hope to start construction in January 2020 and have veterans in a bed by 2022. A public meeting is in the works for the future.

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