Governor Proposes New Vets Home for Central Nebraska
Item number two on Jose Trejo's prayer list may have been answered."We pray for the governor and unicameral," he said, pointing to the yellow notebook that serves as his prayer journal.
Trejo, a member of the Grand Island Veterans Home praises Gov. Dave Heineman's plan to replace the aging facility.
He said, "I almost fell out of my wheelchair when I heard." In his wheelchair, he cruises past photos of the home that dates back 125 years.
The governor singled out its replacement as a priority in his new budget. Heineman said, "It's very old, it's outdated, our veterans deserve a newer home like we have in the Bellevue area." Jose says it makes no sense to invest in the aging facility, which has been added on to and remodeled several times. He too would like to see a home similar to the one in eastern Nebraska.
He said, "If we're going to put money into this one we might end up paying as much money as they would just building a new one and I think that's the road to go."
Trejo is president of the Members Council at the home. He's glad the governor wants to build from scratch, with elevators that work and private rooms. "I get my own room and own bathroom," he said.
Under Heineman's plan, the state would chip in $47 million and the federal government would pay the rest on the $121 million project.
But there's a catch - it wouldn't necessarily stay in Grand Island, where the home has been since 1887.
Gov. Heineman said, "Normally when we do something like this we do a competitive bid process. Look at Grand Island's track record relative to the State Fair. Grand Island's in the driver's seat." His Tuesday prayer meetings will continue, but already Jose says this prayer has been answered, at least in part.
"I hope the good Lord gives me life to step foot in the first room, it's going to be mine," he said with a laugh.
This is still in the proposal stage. Lawmakers have yet to decide anything.
And then there's a three to five year process after that, including the decision of where to locate it.
Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek said the city has a long history caring for veterans between the home and VA Medical Center. He said the city will work hard to keep the home and its 400 employees.