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State says new $121 million Central Nebraska Veterans' Home approved for federal funding

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LINCOLN, Nebraska — The new Central Nebraska Veterans' Home being planned in Kearney has been approved to receive federal funding, state officials said Tuesday.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the decision by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs means the state will be able to get reimbursed for work on the $121 million project as it is completed.

"This is wonderful news," said John Hilgert, who oversees state veterans' homes for HHS. "We expected to receive funding in this round and appreciate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' recognition that our veterans deserve a new home."

The new facility will replace an outdated one in Grand Island. The current home has about 375 employees.

The 2013 decision to put the new veterans' home in Kearney has not been popular in Grand Island, but state officials say Kearney won a competitive bidding process.

Grand Island officials have continued to protest the decision to move the home, and they argue that renovating the existing facility would be cheaper at roughly $80 million. But Gov. Dave Heineman has refused to reconsider the move.

Architectural design work was completed for the new veterans' home earlier this year.

"It was very important for us to start the design work necessary to complete the next step in the grant process," Hilgert said.

Officials in Kearney have already started working on infrastructure and roads for the new veterans' home.

Kearney committed $8.5 million in direct funding and utility cost reductions for the project. And Buffalo County officials pledged another $1 million.

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