Board discusses, tables decision on giving to Bemidji veterans home project

By Anna Jauhola
Kittson County Commissioners discussed, but took no action on, contributing money toward a new state veterans home in Bemidji during their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 5.
In October, Scotty Allison, veteran services officer in Beltrami County, presented an update on the impending veterans home to be built in Bemidji, which would serve veterans in northwestern Minnesota. Allison did not directly request funding from Kittson County, but said other counties have pledged money for the project.
During discussion Monday, Commissioner Joe Bouvette said he hesitates to give money to the project when veterans aren’t guaranteed a spot at the new veterans home. He emphasized Hallock’s Kittson Memorial Nursing Home already contracts with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fargo.
“Any veteran who is 70 percent disabled or more can go into the nursing home here and it costs them zero,” Bouvette said. “The real nice side of that is the veteran’s spouse retains all of the veteran’s benefits.”
The Fargo VA contracts with several other nursing homes in northwestern Minnesota, including in Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Battle Lake, Bemidji and Twin Valley. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, veterans must meet certain criteria to qualify for VA-paid care in a community nursing home, including service-connected status, income and level of disability.
Bouvette pointed out Allison said last month that even if the commissioners approved funding toward the veterans home in Bemidji, there would be no guarantee any Kittson County residents would be able to secure placement there. The home’s availability is to be first-come first-served. Bouvette added that most veterans like to be close to home and the VA contract in Hallock makes that possible for county veterans.
“I don’t see us giving money to this if our veterans have to compete for it like a regular nursing home,” Bouvette said. “Veterans in Kittson County are very well taken care of. I think the money could be used for something better in Kittson County.”
The board agreed to revisit the issue should they receive a formal request for funds regarding the state veterans home in Bemidji.
County Highway Department
County Engineer Kelly Bengtson said the county has been approved for Local Road Improvement Funds to fully reconstruct a half-mile segment of County Road 10 going west from Highway 75. The new road will run from Highway 75 to the railroad tracks north of the new Hallock Elevator bin site south of Hallock.
Bengtson said he is keeping an eye on a slope failure along County Road 22, or the Two Rivers Turnpike, south of Hallock. Between the bridge and Nutrien Ag Systems, formerly CPS, a crack has developed in the new bituminous overlay. Bengtson estimated the crack is a couple hundred feet long in the westbound lane.
“We saw movement here before and with the mill and fill, it cracked again,” Bengtson told the commissioners. “With dry conditions the last two summers, the water table has dropped quite a bit and that’s where you get that shifting.”
He said he hopes it’s just settlement after repaving the turnpike, but sought advice from MnDOT who said to monitor the crack and take corrective action if needed.
In Other Business, the commissioners:
• Approved a utility permit submitted by Enbridge to update a cathode protection bed, which allows the company to maintain its pipe and prevent corrosion along County Road 7 west of Kennedy.
• Approved paying $1,144.80 for new exterior lighting for the Kittson County Highway Department building in Hallock. The full cost is $3,996, but the county received a $2,851.20 rebate through Otter Tail Power Company.
• Discussed drafting a letter of support for Todd’s Electric to accompany an application for a USDA Rural Development loan. Commission tabled the matter to gather more information.
• Approved the FY 2019 Snowmobile Trail Grant for $116,110.42.
• Approved the updated MnCCC Joint Powers Agreement.

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