|Why move veterans home?|
Who to blame? That seems to be the question when it comes to considering why the Grand Island Veterans Home was put up for bids by our governor and state director of Veterans Affairs, John Hilgert. When Hilgert publicly states that a new home would be built in Grand Island were his words deliberately misleading? Why have people from 61 different communities signed a petition disagreeing with Mr. Hilgert in his decision to move the Veterans Home?
Many questions have been asked numerous times as to the process used in the scoring criteria with no legitimate answers from Hilgert or the selection committee. Why did an architectural company from Kearney attend the summer conference of State Veterans Home Administrators the summer of 2013? Were any other architectural firms invited, or in attendance? Why did this same firm have the cost for attendance billed through the eastern Nebraska Veterans Home in August of 2013? And finally, isn't it interesting that this is the company that won the bid to build the new home.
The Governor of Nebraska says that the funding for a new home may be jeopardized if Central Nebraska continues to question the moving of the veteran's home from its current location. The choice to move the home was not made by the veterans, current members of the home, employees or citizens of Central Nebraska; it was decided by the governor and a handpicked group of three. Why shouldn't the people of Central Nebraska have a right to voice their concerns to the leadership in Washington D.C.? That seems to be the only way their voices may be heard and understood. The reasons for keeping the Grand Island Veterans Home at its current location have been well stated many times.
There are a few individuals who want everyone to believe that the veteran's organizations are in support of building a new veterans home in another community. If that is the case, where is a resolution of supporting the move from each of the various state veterans' organizations? When was the support to move the home voted on at any of their state conventions? I asked this question of Mr. Hilgert and received a response from attorney Susan Knabe of the DHHS stating they have no resolutions from the state veteran's organizations. Have the state commanders and members from each of the state veteran's organizations been left out of this process?
There has been an alternate proposal submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and to the Nebraska State Legislative members, clearly demonstrating a cost savings of between $40 and 50 million to keep the veterans home in Grand Island. This is a valid proposal that deserves serious consideration and does provide for new construction and yet preserves the existing landscape and use of some of the existing structures, while maintaining historical preservation. If we are serious about saving money then everyone needs to realize that moving the Grand Island Veterans Home to any other community is not a wise decision.
What to do now? I have been asked that question each week. If you believe that Grand Island Nebraska is the proper location for our veteran's home for Central Nebraska, then you should communicate those thoughts to the following;
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, attention: Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, 810 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20420. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will consider the priority listing for 2015 for construction costs sometime between April and December of this year. To stop the federal funding for the relocation of the Grand Island Veterans Home now is the time to write your letters. That is the only hope of correcting the injustice that was caused by a decision of the governor and State Director John Hilgert. Let's have the voices of Central Nebraska be heard and let those voices be loud and clear.