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Kearney gets new vets home Tell North Platte what you think
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A new $120 million state veterans home will be built in Kearney, not North Platte, Grand Island or Hastings, Gov. Dave Heineman announced Friday.

Kearney was chosen through an open bidding process to replace the current 125-year-old Grand Island Veterans Home, Heineman said.

North Platte offered the state $8.6 million in incentives, including land, utilities and cash to be used at the state’s discretion. But North Platte's offer was fourth best, according to a site selection committee that reviewed applications and visited each community.

Kearney's application received a score of 1,033, Hastings 977, Grand Island 889 and North Platte 855.

The highest score was based on several factors, including the financial proposal, workforce development and subsidized utility rates, according to the announcement.

Also, Kearney offered compactors at no cost and “program enhancements” including a woodshop, kiln, library, chapel, landscaping, veterans memorial and transportation, Heineman said.

In addition to the $8.5 million, North Platte submitted letters of support, petitions and connections to health services, transportation and the 21st Century Veterans Memorial, in an 800-page application.

“We’re disappointed,” North Platte City Manager Jim Hawks said. “We met all the criteria and offered an excellent financial package."

"We came together and gave it our best shot," he said, noting the combined efforts from local government, businesses, health care professionals, the community college as well as individuals.

“The support was overwhelming,” Hawks said.

Hawks said he and Mayor Dwight Livingston would learn more specifics about the scoring factors in the next few days and “see where we came up short.”

Heineman said the resident's rooms in the new home will be distributed among five services – Long-Term Care, Medically Complex, Dementia, Hospice, and Assisted Living -- in households of 12-15 members.

The project will be funded by federal and state matching grants and will create more than 350 fulltime positions.

If built in North Platte, all the state's veterans homes would have been about the same distance apart. Officials also believed a North Platte location would have been a shot in the arm to the economy of west central Nebraska.

"It's about doing what's best for veterans," Hawks said. "We expect Kearney will keep that at the forefront."

Livingston called Kearney's mayor to congratulate him on the selection.

The state's site selection committee was made up of Carlos Castillo, Director, Department of Administrative Services; Catherine Lang, Director, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Labor; and John Hilgert, Director, Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs and Director, Division of Veterans Homes within the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 7/12/2013
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