20th Century Veterans Memorial
If you could peel back the layers of the future in Lincoln County, you might see a state Veterans Home, a multi-million constuction project that would finally bring a quality veterans home to the middle of the state.
Part three in a series of looks at what could be in store for North Platte, Lincoln County and west-central Nebraska.
North Platte officials are competing with the tri-cities of Kearney, Grand Island and Hastings in seeking a new state veteran’s home to replace the 126-year-old home in Grand Island.
The Grand Island home provides nursing care and therapy to about 266 patients. State health officials say it fails to meet today’s standards, with not enough toilets and stairs and hallways that are not wheelchair friendly. There is currently a waiting list of 27 people, according to the veterans home website.
The Legislature recent allocated $47 million for a new home, funds that open the doors for $80-100 million in federal matching grants for construction.
Gov. Dave Heineman will make the final decision on June 13. A point system for applications has been established, with 200 points for location and topography, 300 points for workforce and 50 points for community support.
Petitions are circulating throughout Lincoln County, as well as a letter writing campaign to voice support for the home in North Platte. The home would sit on about 7.5 acres, employ about 380 people and have 225 beds, city administrator Jim Hawks said.
Construction would start in 2015.
“We have everything the selection committee is looking for,” Hawks said. “I’ve been talking to state officials for several months, asking for a fair shake.”
Hawks said one logical place to build the center would be on the west side of town, near Lakeview Ave., which is already served by water, electricity and gas lines. There are several other possible sites.
Nearly 10,000 veterans live in the 19-county region around North Platte.
North Platte is located an equal distance from a veteran facilities in Scottsbluff and facilities in Norfolk and Omaha. That central position would create equal access to all Nebraska veterans.
And of course, Lincoln County has a long tradition in serving veterans. From the world-famous WWII Canteen to the 20th Century Veteran’s Memorial to the proud traditions of Ft. McPherson, the area has demonstrated its commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedoms.
North Platte offers many outdoor, handicap-accessible recreation opportunities; easily accessible public transportation and a quality work force, according to a series of talking points circulated by Dan Mauk, the executive director of the North Platte Chamber of Commerce.
The new Health Sciences center at Mid-Plains Community College provides a reliable stream of nurses and related medical professionals to staff the home.
Great Plains Regional Medical Center has a $100 million expansion underway, bringing state of the art hospital services to North Platte.
And, selecting North Platte would create a high-impact, much-needed economic boost in west Central Nebraska.
Veterans throughout west central Nebraska frequently travel to Grand Island or Omaha for medical care. A small clinic in North Platte is not able to keep up with demands.
However, the Great Plains Regional Medical Center is not part of the military Tricare PPO insurance program and there is only one military Tricare insurance dentist in North Platte. Few if any primary care physicians are in the military insurance Tricare PPO program, according to Robert Johnson, a veteran who lives in North Platte.
The three scoring judges are Carlos Castillo, Director, Department of Administrative Services; John Hilgert, Director, Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs and Catherine Lang, Director, Nebraska Department of Labor.
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The future, part I: An international Rail Town attraction, much of it built out of shipping containers, a blue-collar art form that is appearing around the world.
The future, part II: Filmmakers are finalizing a two-year plan to make a long-awaited, often-rumored movie about the troubled side of North Platte during the early part of the 20th century.