- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Architectural work has begun on the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home in Kearney, and state officials say they expect the project to qualify for federal funding.

John Hilgert, the state veterans’ homes director in the Department of Health and Human Services, says it’s prudent to move ahead with the design work as part of the federal grant process. Hilgert says starting the work will demonstrate the project’s readiness to federal officials.

“It has become even more obvious and apparent that federal funding will be forthcoming,” Hilgert said. “When funding is granted, Nebraska will be ready.”

State officials announced in January that they had chosen Wilkins Hinrichs Stober Architects of Kearney to be the lead architect for the new home. The new facility will replace the aging Grand Island Veterans Home.

The Kearney firm is to head up a team of nine specialized consultants that will provide all of the services required for the project.

Federal officials ranked the Nebraska project No. 22 in priority for this funding year. The ranking does not guarantee money will be available, but the veterans’ home has risen in rank as the federal government approved money for higher-priority projects.

Bill Wiley, a DHHS spokesman, said Hilgert expects federal officials to approve funding for the Nebraska home sometime between August 2014 and February 2015.

State officials are confident enough about federal funding to sign a contract for the architectural and engineering work this week, Wiley said. The contract is worth about $6.8 million.

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