Photo by George Lauby
From left, 800 page report, City Administrator Jim Hawks, Mayor Dwight Livingston and Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Mauk.
Map showing equidistant access a vets home in North Platte would add to existing homes. Circles represent a two-hour drive from each place.
North Platte upped the ante for a new state veteran’s home, now offering a total of $8.6 million in cash incentives, city officials said Tuesday. The 126-year-old home in Grand Island will be rebuilt in 2015.
North Platte is competing with the tri-cities of Kearney, Hastings and Grand Island, which are all competing for the $100 million-plus project.
Although some of the tri-cities seem to be offering more dollars, North Platte already has infrastructure in place, city administrator Jim Hawks said.
Mayor Dwight Livingston said North Platte is the right place for the home, filling a geographical void in veteran’s service in the west central part of the state.
Livingston, Hawks and Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Mauk took two large boxes of presentation materials Monday to the selection committee in Lincoln. The committee is schedule to come to North Platte to see possible sites first-hand.
The three city officials handed out 10 copies of an 800-page book in Lincoln, plus thousands of supportive signatures and hundreds of supporting letters.
If North Platte is chosen, it would be a central location for the home, reaching an estimated 10,000 veterans who currently have to travel 150 miles just to get to the existing home in Grand Island. If surgery is needed, they have to travel more than 225 miles to Bellevue, or else 270 miles to Denver.
And if family cannot make the trip, the veteran is in a situation similar to their experience on active duty, separated from loved ones, said North Platte supporter Ron Bourne, a veteran and a nurse anesthetist.
The city has already pledged $4 million to the project. Mauk said $1.6 million is available from the reserves of the Chamber and the Development Corporation, and the business community has pledged another $3 million.
The incentive money would be used for land acquisition, construction assistance and employee development, he said.
Mauk said 4,000 signatures and 300 letters of support have been submitted.
Bourne vowed that the letter writing campaign would continue until the decision is made.
"We want to give this everything we've got," he said.
Hawks said all of west central Nebraska has come together to bring this project together and better serve veterans.
The home would be 7.5 acres under one roof, employ about 380 people and have 225 beds.
“It would have a huge economic impact in the area but that’s not the main concern," Livingston said. "More importantly, it would provide better support to thousands of veterans.”
If the home is built in North Platte, it would most likely be built on West A near Lakeview, which would be near the emergency services provided by the fire and rescue station down the street. Streets and utilities are already in place, with housing nearby. Hawks said it would be a good location, a good fit with the characteristics of that area.
Another possible site is west of the south campus of North Platte Community College, also already connected to a major street and utility main lines except a short stretch of sanitary sewer, Hawks said.
A third site is in the industrial park near the Cabela’s call center that is not as well connected, he said.
Again, the officials reiterated Lincoln County's 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 commitment to the men and women who served in the military.
North Platte also offers excellent emergency medical services. Great Plains Regional Medical Center has a $100 million expansion underway, bringing state-of-the-art services.
Outdoor, handicap-accessible recreation opportunities are plentiful. The city is easily accessible through public transportation and has a quality work force, Mauk has said.
The new Health Sciences center at Mid-Plains Community College could provide a reliable stream of nurses and related medical professionals to staff the home.