The city will contribute $3.5 million to a new state veteran’s home if it comes to North Platte, following action by the North Platte City council Tuesday.The money would come from quality growth funds – an account that is projected to have more than $3 million by year’s end. The fund is derived from a slice of city sales tax money that slowly and steadily accumulates.
The money is earmarked for economic development, or “quality growth.”
Councilman Glenn Petersen said the money would be used for land acquisition, employee hiring and retention, as well as assistance with construction.
Petersen moved to approve the contribution and Martin Steinbeck seconded. The council agreed unanimously without discussion.
Then, the council threw more incentives into the hopper, unanimously approving a $450,000 grant request to the Northwestern Energy Economic Development Fund for the same purpose.
North Platte officials are competing vigorously with the tri-cities of Kearney, Grand Island and Hastings for the new veteran’s home to replace the 126-year-old home in Grand Island.
Grand Island is putting together a $3.3 million package of incentives to retain the home, according to reports in the Grand Island Independent newspaper. The city of Grand Island has approved $3 million and the county commissioners are considering another $300,000.
The existing 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 receive the final recommendations on June 13 and most likely decide in July. Petitions, as well as a letter writing campaign, have circulated throughout Lincoln and surrounding counties to support the home in North Platte. It would encompass 7.5 acres under its roof and employ about 380 people, city administrator Jim Hawks said. Construction would begin in 2015.
“We have everything the selection committee is looking for,” Hawks said.
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.
Nearly 10,000 veterans live in a 19-county region around North Platte, and North Platte is located an equal distance from existing veteran facilities in Scottsbluff and facilities in Norfolk and Bellevue. The central position would create equal access for 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 served in the military.
North Platte also offers many outdoor, handicap-accessible recreation opportunities; easily accessible public transportation and a quality work force, according to Dan Mauk, the executive director of the North Platte Chamber of Commerce.
The new Health Sciences center at Mid-Plains Community College would provide 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.