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Peterson talks veterans home, foster care in Bemidji visit

Congressman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., meets with Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews and Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack to discuss local issues on Tuesday and Wild Hare. (Matthew Liedke | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., met with several city and county officials in downtown Bemidji on Tuesday to gauge issues facing the local area.

The gathering took place at the Wild Hare Bistro with Beltrami County District 2, 3 and 4 Commissioners Reed Olson (who owns the Wild Hare Bistro), Richard Anderson and Tim Sumner, as well as County Administrator Kay Mack and Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews. During the hour-long conversation, topics ranged from foster care to the upcoming veterans home project slated for Bemidji.

On the latter, the group informed Minnesota's 7th Congressional District representative on the progress made on behalf of the project. Over the past year, the state has made $12.4 million available for the construction of a veterans home to be located in Bemidji.

In total, the project is estimated to cost $43.7 million. Nationwide, homes such as the one proposed in Bemidji are built with local and state entities covering 35 percent and the federal government providing the other 65 percent. To ensure there's no gap in financing, local officials are fundraising additional money to go with the $12.4 million from the state.

During the meeting, Peterson said he'd like to be given financial updates on the fundraising so he can help in Congress.

"I need to know, because we have to get involved and make sure things get done," Peterson said. "Make sure I know as soon as possible, so that way I can get on it and we can get the senators involved."

The other main topic discussed Tuesday was the growing cost of out-of-home placements on the county. Because of the county's Health and Human Services Department's foster care work, the county is seeing its fund balance decline.

Peterson said fixing the problem will take collaboration between the county and tribal governments, as well as state and federal assistance.

Peterson also planned to meet with business leaders later Tuesday and also take a tour of the Headwaters School of Music and Arts.

Although Tuesday's event was not billed as a campaign event, Democrat Peterson is facing Republican Dave Hughes in his bid for a 15th term in Congress. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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