Weber County may finally get a veterans nursing home.
On Tuesday the House Government Operations Committee unanimously approved a bill that would provide $19.7 million to build the nursing home, a figure the state is counting on the federal government to reimburse.
Construction on the veterans nursing home has stalled since 2005, when the Legislature approved a $4.5 million bond, which was contingent upon federal funding. Problem is, that funding has never come.
The nursing home is still on the federal list for funding, and "the feds continue to tell us they will live up to their commitments," said Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace. But for now, the nursing home is still low on the funding listing.
But the state can wait no longer, said Terry Schow, director of Utah's Divison of Veterans Affairs. Construction costs are booming, and the project could jump $6 million if the project is delayed any longer, Schow said.
The state currently runs one veterans nursing home, which has a waiting list that hovers near 100 people and is growing every day, Schow said. The 80-bed Salt Lake facility has been running at capacity since it opened in 1989.
The planned 120-bed Weber County nursing home should clear some space at the Salt Lake home, and serve veterans in Box Elder, Cache, Davis and Weber counties, although all veterans are welcome, Schow said.
Even if the federal funding never comes, Dee said the state needs to support its veterans.
"It's about time we as Utahns step up to the plate and say regardless of what the federal government may be involved in, we as Utahns respect our veterans and we will build a nursing home," Dee said.
In 2001, the state's over-65 veteran population reached 49,000. In the coming years experts believe that age group will represent 41 percent of the total number of veterans in the state.
With those increasing numbers, local veterans groups are looking at other locations for nursing homes. Future nursing home sites are slated for southern and central Utah, according to the Utah Division of Veterans Affairs Home Strategic Plan.HB 129 includes a line that says the state will not approve the construction of any future veterans nursing homes until the federal government reimburses the state for the Weber County facility.