GRAND ISLAND — A recently installed model room gave residents and staff at the Grand Island Veterans’ Home a chance to envision a future facility in Kearney.
They liked what they saw Friday.
“It’ll be pretty nice when it’s all done,” one resident said after getting a tour of the model, a life-size replication of one of the 225 rooms planned for the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home that will be built in northeast Kearney.
On the planning side of the project, a major milestone was recently passed when 100 percent complete plans were submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for final approval, Kearney City Manager Mike Morgan said. Once they are OK’d, the project will be sent out to bid. If all goes according to schedule, construction could begin in spring or early summer 2016.
The room previewed Friday has 220 square feet of bedroom and living space, a 69-square-foot bathroom and 12 square feet of closet space. It features wide doors, auto-adjusting lighting, a flat-screen television and a memory case where members can display mementos to give their room personality.
Plans for the model room were designed by Wilkins ADP, the lead firm on the project. In February, construction management students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney began to build the room under the direction of professors Nathan Barr, Dale Porter and Eric Holt.
Over the summer, Spracklen Built of Kearney finished the interior of the model. A crane lifted the 20,000-pound structure onto a trailer, and it was moved to a courtyard outside the Grand Island Veterans’ Home earlier this week.
More than 40 UNK students and nearly 20 organizations and subcontractors pitched in to build, transport and install the room.
“I’m very pleased,” said John Hilgert, director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “I am very grateful for the community that gave us the opportunity to actually show this to the members. It’s a wonderful gift.”
Danielle Deaver, director of nursing for the Grand Island facility, said the large doors will allow staff to easily bring equipment to and from rooms.
Another feature she likes is a cabinet that is accessible from both the bathroom and a hallway just inside the door to the room. It will allow staff to stock linens and other items at night without having to fully enter a room and disturb an individual.
“The veterans deserve such a beautiful place (where we) can provide state-of-the-art care for them,” Deaver said.
Deaver said the administration is beginning to think about how to staff the future facility. Currently, the G.I. center has a certified nursing assistant course, which she says helps to “grow our own” staff. A similar program is in the works for Kearney, she said.
The veterans home will be located on nearly 68 acres at 56th Street and Cherry Avenue. It will feature private rooms and bathrooms arranged in neighborhoods, or small complexes. The neighborhoods will be connected to a main building by enclosed walkways.
Other amenities in the plans include a lake at the north end of the property, a chapel, a wood shop and paved trails.
The facility will be home to 225 veterans who served on active duty and received an honorable or general discharge or spouses, widows and widowers of veterans.
Last month, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that the VA set aside $52 million in funding for the facility, which is expected to cost about $121 million.
According to the VA’s construction grants priority list for 2015, the agency has estimated it will provide nearly $64 million for the project. Additionally, the state has allocated $47 million for the project, and the city, Buffalo County and the Economic Development Council of Buffalo County will contribute $10.1 million in local funds.
Morgan said he encourages citizens from the entire region to view the model in Grand Island.