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Persell pushes for veteran’s home

BEMIDJI – State Rep. John Persell is renewing his push for a regional veterans home.

The Bemidji DFLer introduced a bill Jan. 10 to appropriate $250,000 for pre-design work for a 90-bed nursing facility for veterans on the Sanford Bemidji campus.

“We’ve got this significant need up in our area,” said Persell, who has introduced bills to appropriate money for the project in past sessions. 

The project last year got a major boost when Sanford Health announced it would donate 15 acres south of Sanford’s WoodsEdge Senior Living campus at 1000 Anne St. NW for the home. 

Persell said initial estimates for construction of the facility are around $30 million, with about $20 million coming from the federal government. The project would still need another $10 million from the state for construction.

While odd-numbered years don’t typically include bonding bills at the Legislature, Persell is hopeful the money can be secured.

“The needs are well-demonstrated in a lot of areas for a bonding bill,” Persell said. “And if we have one, I’m going to try and get (the veterans home) in a bonding bill.”

Scotty Allison, the veterans service officer for Beltrami County, said there are 3,300 veterans who live in Beltrami County, and there are almost 16,000 veterans in the nine surrounding counties. That’s significant, considering the closest veterans home in the state are in Fergus Falls and Silver Bay.

“It’s not a whole lot of fun for folks to drive that far to see a loved one,” Persell said.

A 2009 study aimed at determining the most feasible locations for a veterans home in Minnesota ranked Bemidji 10th of 17 communities. That ranking was based off travel time to a community-based outpatient clinic and to a veterans administration medical center.

“This study identifies desirable locations for a new Minnesota Veterans Home,” the study reads. “Final determination of a site will be made based on proposals from interested communities.”

Project supporters point to the donated land from Sanford as a major advantage to having it located in Bemidji.

“I’ve always said and will continue to say that we need to reach out to veterans no matter where they’re found to live,” Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene said recently.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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