New veterans home in Montevideo taking shape as hiring process begins

Jan. 14—MONTEVIDEO

— Although it is still far from complete, Jim Williams had only one word to describe the Veterans Administration skilled nursing home that will be ready for its first residents this year.

"Wow," said Williams as he left the

Montevideo facility

on Jan. 11. He took part in a tour hosted that day by Minnesota Department of Veterans Administration Commissioner Larry Shellito and his staff, along with the project's contractor, Knutson Construction.

Construction on the 72-bed skilled nursing facility is 66% complete, according to Shellito. He and Ashley Bormann, the newly appointed administrator for the home, said they anticipate welcoming the first residents in early September.

Like others on the tour, Williams said he was surprised by the size of the facility now taking shape. The building area includes 95,513 gross square feet on a 13.4-acre site on Montevideo's east side. It consists of four connected wings. Each will hold two "neighborhoods" and four "households" of 18 residents. The design is aimed at providing a more homelike atmosphere, according to the MDVA.

The Montevideo home is one of three under construction at this time; the other two are in Preston and Bemidji. The Montevideo facility will feature a 2,900-square-foot community room, thanks to the Williams family. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the spacious room with natural light, giving promise that it will be a popular gathering place for veterans to host family, friends and visitors from the community.

Jim Williams' late brother, Steve, had included a $3 million bequest from his estate to the Montevideo project in his will after learning about the plans for the home from his brother. Steve Williams, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Mekong Delta, died at age 70 on March 14, 2018.

The nursing home project budget is $58,266,161, with construction representing $47,519,260 of that amount, according to the VA. State and federal funds are responsible for most of the project costs, but the Montevideo project was made possible by support from local governments as well. Along with the Williams family's contribution, the City of Montevideo and Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties also contributed funding for a total local contribution of more than $7 million.

Tim Kolhei, Chippewa County veterans service officer, said he's already hearing from individuals and organizations in the Montevideo community eager to volunteer and spend time with residents in the home.

At this point, the Veterans Administration has received 86 applications for residency, according to Shellito. Some of the applicants are currently in skilled nursing homes, and some are in their own homes but want to be sure they are on the waiting list.

To qualify, veterans must be honorably discharged and have served 181 consecutive days on active duty, unless discharged earlier because of disability incurred in the line of duty. Residents must also have a certified medical or clinical need, according to Bormann. Spouses of eligible veterans also qualify for admission.

Shellito said the VA is actively encouraging interested veterans and spouses to apply.

The home's new administrator has set up a temporary office in the Career Force building in downtown Montevideo and is going to work at her first challenge: Hiring staff for the facility in a tight labor market.

The VA anticipates hiring 150 to 175 full- and part-time workers for the home, according to Bormann and Shellito.

Along with recruiting workers, the VA and Montevideo city officials are working with the Montevideo schools and other educational institutions to provide opportunities for students and other community members to explore career opportunities in long-term care.

Bormann said the goal at the facility is to provide the residents with a great place to call home and enjoy a high quality of life.

Williams said he is convinced that it will meet those goals. He noted that its first residents will likely be Vietnam-era veterans, who like his brother, did not always receive the welcome home that they deserved.