Planning continues for proposed Veterans Home in Preston

PROVIDED BY MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS The proposed veterans home, expected to be built in Preston by 2022, includes three-wings of residential rooms surrounding a “town square” with various amenities. The facility is proposed to be built on a 15-acre site on top of the north bluff in Preston.

Aging veterans and other eligible family members from Preston and the surrounding region may have a new option for residential skilled nursing care by 2022. For the last few years, local officials and veterans’ advocates have lobbied for the addition of a new Minnesota State Veterans Home in their community. Plans are moving forward, according to officials from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA).

Preston is one of three Minnesota cities pursuing a future Minnesota Veterans Home. The proposed Preston location is a 15-acre bluff-top site surrounded by a 200-year-old native white oak forest. In 2018, the Minnesota Legislature allocated $10.2 million toward the cost of the project which will be funded by a combination of federal-granted (65%), state-bonded and pending community-provided monies (35%). In March of this year, MDVA submitted an application for Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That funding will not be confirmed until early 2020.

While federal funds are not guaranteed, there is optimism among the planning team. “MDVA looks forward to approval of our federal funding request and breaking ground on this new Veterans Home next year,” said Douglas Hughes, Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Healthcare, MDVA.

Representatives from MDVA, the Minnesota Department of Administration and the architecture/engineering firms of Wold and Perkins Eastman visited Preston on May 16 to provide an update. Local leaders were eager to learn more about the proposed Veterans Home and how their fall 2018 feedback was incorporated into the facility’s design.

The Preston home’s design incorporates regional building materials, such as wood and stone, and is laid out to take advantage of the views of the surrounding countryside from the bluff-top setting. The public spaces include a “town center” featuring a small coffee shop/cafe, theater/meeting room, family dining room, meditation room/chapel and club room. The 54 residential units are split into three, 18-resident “households” avoiding long institutional-feeling hallways.

“The Preston community is excited and honored to be home of the future veterans home,” said Preston Mayor Kurt Reicks. “The picturesque bluff-top site, the state-of-the-art facility and the exceptional care delivered will provide a well-deserved home for our veterans. We owe it to the men and women who served our country.”

Other local officials invited to the May 16 meeting included City Administrator Joe Hoffman, Public Works Director Jim Bakken, Mayor Kurt Reicks, City Council Member Robert Maust, City Council Member Charles Sparks, Economic Development Director Cathy Enerson, Fillmore County Veterans Service Officer Jason Marquardt, Fillmore County Commissioner Duane Bakke, Cliff Sackett and Ron Laughlin of the Preston VFW and American Legion, Preston Chamber of Commerce President Becky Jones, Preston Tourism Director Gabby Kinneberg, American Legion Member Don Brockway, Charles Aug of F&M Community Bank, Co-chair of the Preston Veterans Home Committee Don Gildner and local veteran John Szuch.

Construction on the Veterans Home will be led by a general contractor which will strive to hire a significant percentage of sub-contractors from the local community. The new Minnesota Veterans Homes will also support the local economies long-term by offering employment opportunities to those who share the MDVA mission to care for veterans.