AP NEWS

City, state get in step on plans for old veterans home

February 17, 2019

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — Grand Island’s mayor says two state agencies will work with the city on what to do with the former Grand Island Veterans Home buildings and land.

The Grand Island Independent reports that Mayor Roger Steele said Thursday during his State of the City Address that public input will be sought for the plan. He also said the state’s Department of Administrative Services has agreed the plan should include something for veterans, such as housing or social services.

About 640 acres (259 hectares) were transferred to the city in 2015 after the decision was made to build the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home in Kearney. The buildings and the remaining 40 acres (16.2 hectares) of land became surplus state property when veterans began moving into their new Kearney home on Jan. 16.

There was discussion before the move that Grand Island would take ownership of the empty buildings, with state dollars provided for redevelopment. But Steele said that when he asked whether there would be any money, the state answer was no.

“Quite frankly, the city can’t afford to own and maintain 280,000 square feet of buildings, especially when you consider most of these buildings are very old,” Steele said. It costs about $1 million a year to keep the buildings operational.

“That would have been a crushing financial burden for the city,” he said.

But Grand Island had some negotiating influence based on an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that provided money for the Kearney facility: The state’s Administrative Services Department and the city were to team up and devise a management or redevelopment plan for the property within 18 months of the state-VA agreement signing in July 2015.

That had not been done, and that gave the city leverage to insist the state come up with a development plan, Steele said. Administrative Services and the state Economic Development Department subsequently agreed to work with the city on a plan.

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com