KEARNEY — Ground has officially been broken in northeast Kearney for construction of the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home.
Hundreds turned out for the event under blue skies Wednesday morning near 56th Street and Airport Road.
Gov. Pete Ricketts said veterans will be taken care of appropriately at the new home.
“Our veterans worked while we all played. Our veterans worked and protected our country while we all slept. They put themselves at risk for us, and we owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay,” he said.
Construction of the 225-bed facility could start immediately, and it is expected to open in fall 2018. Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home will replace the aging veterans home in Grand Island.
Ground also was broken for a veterans memorial that will be erected on the facility grounds.
Estimates put the cost of building and equipping the new home at $121 million, of which the state will provide $47 million. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has set aside $52 million to get construction started and will provide more later. Hausmann Construction of Lincoln submitted the lowest bid of $89.7 million to build the facility.
Wilkins ADP of Kearney designed the project.
“By creating the Central Nebraska Veterans Home, we can do what we’re supposed to do, to take care of our veterans,” Ricketts said.
John Hilgert, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs and a Gulf War veteran, said the new veterans home will be a state-of-the-art facility with Nebraska enhancements, including a wood shop, a lake, and a large chapel. But the people will be key to the vets home’s success.
“The staff is what makes it the home we want it to be,” he said.