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State money pushes Preston veterans home closer to reality

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The celebration Thursday will recognize and answer questions about the 72-bed veterans home proposed on a 15-acre site on the north side of Preston.
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PRESTON — A veteran’s home proposed for Fillmore County received a $10.2 million boost from the state last month.

The proposed facility was part of a public works construction bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 30.

According to city administrator Joe Hoffman, the current building plan calls for a 72-bed facility on a 15-acre site on the north side of the city. With the current closest veteran’s home in the Twin Cities, Hoffman said the bluff-top build near the Preston water tower would fill a great need.

"I think we were all surprised by the need for veteran’s homes in outstate Minnesota," Hoffman said. "Thirty-three percent of veterans in Minnesota live in southeastern Minnesota, and that’s about 46,000 veterans.

"All of the pieces came together, and in the end, it just looked like Preston was the right fit," he said. "We’re just thrilled that the Legislature and the governor agreed."

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Two other veterans home proposals also received funding. $12.4 million was set aside for a Bemidji location as well as $9.4 million for a proposal in Montevideo. The bill approved $32 million for the construction in total.

The Minnesota Department of Veteran’s Affairs based the proposed Preston building’s design on a veteran’s home near Chippewa Falls, Wis. Final plans will need to be submitted to the state by April 2019.

At present, the city is finalizing plans to purchase the property.

Ron Scheeval, co-chairman of the Preston Veterans Home Committee, said a key goal of the plan is to provide services closer to home.

"The biggest thing is being closest to the family," Scheeval said. "If you’re aging in years and you have to be in a home for continuous care, being 100 miles away from family is just a little excessive. That’s why we’ve been pushing it hard."

Accessible to a 15-county area, he said Preston seemed a perfect place to center the facility.

The $10.2 million signed off by the state is a starting point. Scheeval said estimates of total cost have ranged anywhere from $32 million to $50 million.

However, he said state approval is a big step towards the goal the city has been working on since 2013.

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"We hope in three to five years, it’s up and ready to go," Scheeval said. "We’ll wait and see where the path takes us, but we liken this to one more step on a long ladder."

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