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Housing project at Hastings Vets Home delayed

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Construction on a new 60-unit supportive housing (independent living) building at the Minnesota Veterans Home Hastings is on hold at least until the final determination of the bonding requests in the next Minnesota Legislative session.

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What was considered a done deal earlier this year when the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) approved more than $10 million for the project has run into a glitch because of a Minnesota state law that prohibits the transfer of grant funds from one state agency to another. Permits had been obtained from the city of Hastings and the planning and design is close to completion with an expected construction start date in early summer.

"We were drafting the loan papers when we became aware of the statute," said Anna Lewicki Long, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. "There can be no transfer of grant funds from one agency to another."

That does not necessarily mean the $10 million is gone from the project, Long stressed.

"The finance agency is standing by with the $10 million, depending what happens in the session (with the bonding)," she said. "We are looking at creative options. We are still hopeful the project will happen."

If built, the project would be on the south side of the campus, behind the veterans home main building. Hastings veterans home administrator Charles "Chip" Cox and other members of the state Veterans Administration had worked for years to gain project funding through the Legislature's bonding bill. They did their homework regarding the need for such a building, including surveying current Veterans Home residents throughout the state. They considered future needs. While veterans would be given preference for living in the building, it would not mean all residents would be veterans.

Through the Legislature, Veterans Administration officials gained pre-design funding of $700,000, but then were steered to the MHFA as another route for funding. They thought it had worked.

State Rep. Denny McNamara, Republican, Hastings, is a strong advocate for the project.

"This is a great project," he said. "It reaches out to veterans and non-veterans, and we have to keep working to get it done."

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