Grand Island Mayor Speaks Out Following Vets Home Loss

Mayor Jay Vavricek

Friday's announcement that Kearney won the final bid for the New Central Nebraska Veterans Home -- beating out three other cities -- came as a surprise for many in Grand Island, including Mayor Jay Vavricek.

Grand Island has been home to the building for the last 126 years, so it doesn't come as a surprise that city leaders were shocked and disappointed to find that Kearney had won the final bid.

Grand Island scored third highest among the four competing cities, including Kearney, North Platte and Hastings, totaling 889 points out of a possible 1,200.

Kearney received a score of 1,033, beating out Grand Island in all nine categories evaluated.

The Home for Our Heroes Committee released a statement following Friday's announcement, saying the selection process wasn't fair and that they plan to fight the decision with the legislature.

"The decision to move the facility was effectively made a year ago when conversations occurred between Kearney and state officials about relocating the Veterans Home," the press release says. "Kearney officials have acknowledged, publicly, that they submitted preliminary proposals to the state for feedback. The state set up a request for statement of interest and offer process which was meant to give the illusion of being fair and open, but in fact, the decision to relocate the facility was already set in motion."

"Our community and the Home for Heroes Committee will be challenging the decision and recommendation," Vavricek said, "and we feel it's not a final decision and we owe that to our veterans and to the spirit of 126 years of history that's part of our community."

Many in the Grand Island community speculate disharmony in city hall contributed to the selection process, however, the mayor says with its dynamic city government, it's okay to agree to disagree.

"When it comes down to our great city, we may have our share of difference and challenges, but we always rally together and this might just be the ticket to rally and unite our community together like never before," he said.

Once federal funds are granted, groundbreaking for the new veterans home in Kearney is expected to begin by the summer of 2015, with doors opening in 2018.