- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - State officials expect to find out soon whether a proposed central Nebraska home for veterans will receive federal funding, Gov. Dave Heineman said Tuesday.

Heineman said he hasn’t received word on whether the federal government will approve grant funding for the project in Kearney. He said state officials believe they will be notified late in the federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, or early in the next one.

The new planned veterans’ home would replace an outdated facility in Grand Island. The current home has about 375 employees.

Heineman announced in July 2013 that the state would build the $121 million, 225-bed Central Nebraska Veterans Home in Kearney. Kearney won the project in competitive bidding with Hastings, Grand Island and North Platte

Architectural work for the project began in June, in part to demonstrate the project’s readiness to federal officials.

Federal officials ranked the Nebraska project among the top 25 nationally for funding this year. That does not guarantee money will be available, but the home has risen in rank as the federal government approved funds for higher-priority projects.

The project stirred some animosity between Kearney and Grand Island, where the facility was located for the last 127 years. Nebraska lawmakers rejected a bill this year that would have required legislative review of any proposal to move a state service or agency from one community to another, if the cost was $15 million or more.

Kearney-area officials have already started work on roads and other infrastructure to make way for the veterans’ home. In October, development began with a $430,000 roadway extension near the project’s planned site.

Kearney officials have agreed to commit $8.5 million in direct funding and utility cost reductions for the project. The commitment came on top of $1 million approved by Buffalo County officials, $100,000 from an economic development group and $500,000 from a veterans’ memorial committee.

Heineman commented on the project after announcing Tuesday that all four of the state veterans’ homes have received perfect quality and care scores from the federal government. The homes were graded based on factors such as safety, resident care, staff training and development, and dietary and food service.

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