Grand Island and Kearney work together on a lot of issues and projects, but they haven’t found much common ground as far as a new state veterans home since last July when Governor Dave Heineman announced a new one would be built in Kearney.
As the Kearney community readies for that new Central Nebraska Veterans Home, Grand Island leaders say they’ll keep fighting for what exists -- the Grand Island Veterans Home, which would be replaced by the Kearney facility.
“We just need to be patient I guess, but there’s still a lot of strong feelings here where indeed the Grand Island Veterans Home needs to remain in Grand Island for a lot of reasons aside from the selection process,” says GI Mayor Jay Vavricek. Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse says they’re hopeful but confident in federal funding coming through, so they plan to keep moving ahead. “Our Veterans First group has been very active and we want to continue to go forward and get our integration plan in place, and so it’s a work in progress, and we knew that there would be multiple steps and we knew that progression would take time,” says Clouse. It was July 12, 2013 when Heineman and state officials announced their selection process chose Kearney. Hastings came in second on their points scale, GI third, and North Platte fourth. What’s followed has been a year of passionate groups, veterans and citizens voicing their opinions; legislation discussion in Lincoln about the process itself; and steps forward with designing a new facility. Even though it has been a year, the mayors of both communities say this was never going to be an overnight project, and both expect it to take several more years.
“Can’t believe it’s been a year, but we’ve told people all along it’ll be a four or five year process and we’re working our way into it and we’re seeing progress every day,” says Clouse.
“Here it is a year later and in some respects it’s a recommendation that’s still unfunded, so, so much has maybe changed, but obviously nothing has changed,” says Vavricek. Both mayors say that no matter what happens going forward, they and their communities will keep working on putting the needs of local veterans first.