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Fillmore County proposal tops national list for new state veterans cemeteries

ST. PAUL — A proposed state veterans cemetery in Fillmore County ranks at the top of a national list for grant funding.

The National Cemetery Administration ranks the southeastern Minnesota site first among proposals for new cemetery sites. The administration is responsible for awarding grant money to cover the $8 million in construction and design costs for these veterans cemeteries.

David Swantek, director of the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls , said it is a big deal for the Fillmore County proposal. The list has 104 projects, including new cemeteries and expansions of existing cemeteries. He said this cemetery near Preston would fill a major void.

"Veterans down there just don’t have an option that is close to their home. We find in Little Falls that the majority of burials we do come from a 50-mile radius," he said. "Families are going to tend to choose a more local option for burial."

Fillmore County has agreed to donate 155 acres along the Root River for the cemetery. Studies are still under way to make sure the site is suitable for a cemetery. The goal is to wrap up the studies this spring and begin designing the site.


Earlier this week, Swantek testified before the House State Government Finance Committee and asked for $425,000 be allocated per year in the next two-year budget cycle to cover the cemetery’s operating costs. He estimates the cemetery would provide up to 500 burials a year for veterans and their spouses. All veterans are eligible to be buried for free in a state veterans cemetery. In southeastern Minnesota, an estimated 40,000 veterans would be within 75 miles of the cemetery site.

There are 81 state veterans cemeteries nationwide. The only state veterans cemetery in Minnesota is in Little Falls, although work is under way to identify sites to build cemeteries in northeastern, southwestern and southeastern Minnesota. During the last legislative session, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston , and Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona , passed legislation to make sure the Fillmore County location would be eligible for $500,000 in bonding money for studies and design work. Any design costs incurred by the state would be reimbursed by the federal government.

During the committee hearing, Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, asked if the cemetery would require improvements be made to U.S. 52 to handle increased traffic generated by the cemetery. Davids said Minnesota Department of Transportation officials have indicated some changes will need to be made. But he said he was told that the costs could be covered in the department’s existing budget.

The cemetery could be an important addition to the region, Davids said.

"I am extremely excited, and I really don’t think a lot of folks in the area realize what a big deal this is, but they will soon find out," he said.

State grants priority list View more documents from Post-Bulletin Co. .

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