Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced a plan to soften the blow to Grand Island when the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home moves from the city to Kearney.
“Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’re going to propose that the state turn over the Grand Island Veterans’ Home and the property there back to the city of Grand Island and we think that will allow them to redevelop it for future growth for the city,” Ricketts stated during a news conference at the Capitol.
The Grand Island city council must approve the transfer, which will be accomplished in two phases. First, the state will transfer 77 acres of recreational property and 329 acres of farmland. The second phase would involve transferring the 55 acres on which the veterans’ home, the veterans’ cemetery, and the veterans’ club sit. Under the proposal, the city would take over maintenance of the veterans’ cemetery. The rest could be developed.
Kearney won a competitive bid to build the new veterans home, which should be completed by 2018.
Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island stated the proposal could make up for economic loss Grand Island will have to absorb when the home moves to Kearney.
Gloor has been a big critic of the process used to award Kearney the new home.
“But here’s a scenario where we were taking a book of business for want of a better term, certain jobs that existed in one community paid for by state tax dollars and moving them to another community. There was a winner, certainly, but there was a loser in that those jobs then disappeared and left a hole in the community,” according to Gloor.
Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen says the city hasn’t decided how to use the land.
“Much of our plans at this point are purely conceptual as we’ll begin the process of hiring an engineering and consulting firm to help us navigate through what realistic options we have and also gather community feedback,” Jensen said.
The Department of Administrative Services estimates the state could save $5.3 million over 25 years through the transfer of the land. DAS estimates the value of the land at between $4 million and $5 million.