Grand Island leaders might want to consider advice by gubernatorial candidate Beau McCoy of Omaha. McCoy believes that rather than fighting the decision to build a new Central Nebraska Veterans Home in Kearney, G.I. leaders should focus on the best way to repurpose the land where the Grand Island Veterans Home stands today.
McCoy represents Omaha’s 39th Legislative District and was among the 49 state senators who unanimously voted to seek competitive bids for a new veterans home. The process used to evaluate the bids from Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings and North Platte was reviewed and approved by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, and Gov. Dave Heineman announced in July that Kearney had submitted the winning bid.
“I don’t think we’re going to go backwards on this issue,” McCoy said about the Legislature possibly revisiting the situation. Reopening the issue, he cautioned, might risk the loss of the federal funds to build the new facility in Kearney.
McCoy added that, in hindsight, Heineman might have appointed a larger site selection committee. McCoy might have a point, except that the three people who the governor appointed brought to the table extensive qualifications and an appreciation for veterans’ needs.
Comprising the site selection committee were:
- John Hilgert. He is a First Infantry Army veteran of the Gulf War and the director of the Division of Veterans’ Homes with the Department of Health and Human Services and former director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Catherine Lang. She directs the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Her 32 years in Nebraska state government have yielded insight into workforce development and evaluating how site proposals would affect costs for state government.
- Carlos Castillo. He was Heineman’s former director of administrative services. Castillo oversaw Nebraska state government’s facility management, finance, marketing, HR, customer service, government relations and administrative areas, including legislative relations and building renewal.
Heineman, who signed off on the selection committee’s decision, is a five-year Army veteran and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. McCoy might have a point — the committee was small in number — but its members’ depth of knowledge and experience resulted in a decision that places central Nebraska veterans first.