Officials in Hall County are responding after Gov. Dave Heineman issued a letter last week asking state Senator Mike Gloor, Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek and Hall County Chair Pam Lancaster if they were still in support of a new veterans home for central Nebraska.
Heineman questioned the officials after a letter was sent from Hall County Veterans Service Office Don Shuda to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki asking him to "not approve the funding for a new Nebraska Veterans Home until further study is completed."
Vavricek responded to the governor's letter with a letter of his own Wednesday. He says he was unaware of Shuda's plans to submit a letter, and even if he was aware, he has no responsibility or control over Shuda.
Hall County Chair Pam Lancaster a letter to the governor Wednesday as well. She and Vavricek say Shuda's letter was only a cover letter for 5,000 signatures of people wishing to keep the Grand Island Veterans Home at its current location.
Both officials say the will continue to support the veterans in central Nebraska, but say that support comes from fighting to keep the home where it is.
Lancaster said, "The decision regarding the location of the Grand Island Veterans Home should rise above political or personal vendettas. It should first and foremost consider the best interest of the Veterans in providing a safe, comfortable home for their last years."
The Hall County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to support a so-called "grassroots" committee's proposal to rebuild and renovate the existing home that would save millions of dollars according to Lancaster.
Vavricek says he supports the revitalization of the current facilities "either through remodeling, major renovation and/or complete rebuilding."
The Grand Island mayor told Heineman that like him, Vavricek wants the best care possible for the members of the Home. But he said, "Our difference lies in where that care should be provided."
Mayor Jay Vavricek said "I can't support closing the home, when you look at the century of service, the veterans there, and the uncertainly of knowing will they ever have a new facility."
Governor Dave Heineman's office released a statement in regards to all the letters they received on Wednesday: "The State of Nebraska conducted an open and fair bidding process for the location of the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home. As a result of that evaluation process, Kearney was selected as the new location for the Central Nebraska Veterans Home. The scores were: No. 1: Kearney, 1,033; No. 2: Hastings, 977; and No. 3: Grand Island, 889. Governor Heineman supports that decision." – Jen Rae Wang, Governor's spokesperson.