It took several years, but on Aug. 23, Knutson Construction Services along with state officials and veterans celebrated the ground-breaking of a new veterans home in Montevideo, Minnesota, that will serve 72 residents.
How much effort did it take to reach this point? Knutson, the contractor for the Montevideo Veterans Home, was originally awarded the project in 2019. But the plans for a new veteran’s home in this part of Minnesota actually started back in 2007. It wasn’t until this year, though, that the funding and plans for the project were finally approved.
Buddy Juusola, senior project manager at Knutson Construction Services and the project manager on the Montevideo Veterans home, said that last month’s ground-breaking was the cumulation of years of work by veterans, government officials, developers and architects.
“We are proceeding. Construction is underway. All our subcontractors are on board. All the contracts are in place,” Juusola said. “This is an exciting time for this project.”
The new state veterans home — construction is expected to be mostly done by the middle of May in 2022 — will serve 72 residents in a residential skilled care model. The project is designed to house four households of 18 residents each with private, single-occupancy resident rooms with full private bathrooms.
The veterans home will also include living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and dens in each household. Amenities include a cafe, club room, multi-purpose room, classroom, theater, library, meditation space and community amenity building.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in its State Home Construction Grants Fiscal Year 2021 Conditional Approvals included funding three new veterans home in Minnesota, in Bemidji, Preston and Montevideo.
The three new homes will receive more than $80 million in federal VA funds.
“As a veteran myself, I recognize the obligation we have as a state and a country to deliver on the benefits our veterans have earned,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz in a written statement. “We are pleased to be able to expand our State Veterans Homes into three new communities to serve our elderly veterans living in all corners on the state.”
The three veterans homes are being built with a combination of federal grants and state and community money. The federal grants will account for 65 percent of the costs of building the homes.
“These communities have been working for more than a decade to get this done, and I am glad to see these projects finally nearing the finish line,” said U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach in a press release. “They are going to make a big difference for veterans and their families in our state.”
Two of the veterans homes — in Bemidji and Montevideo — are within Fischbach’s Seventh Congressional District.
Juusola said that the home in Montevideo will definitely serve a need.
“There is definitely a need and a demand for these veterans homes,” Juusola said. “They will have waiting lists of people who want to get into this home.”
Juusola said that the biggest challenge for Knutson now is the same one they face on all new construction projects: longer lead times on materials.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, construction companies have struggled to get the wood, steel and other materials they need for their projects. Lead times are now far longer for these materials.
And this is a problem that is showing few signs of fading anytime soon.
“In the current market, our joists have a 10-month lead time,” Juusola said. “Other components will present challenges, too, because of the lead times. We are constantly dealing with that today. It’s something that has hit the entire construction industry. It adds a level of complexity to every project.”
The Montevideo Veterans Home is also not located near a major metropolitan area. This means that Knutson has had to import most of the subcontractors from out of town.
But even with these challenges, Juusola said he is looking forward to working on this project.
“We are doing something that will benefit veterans and the community,” he said. “I have a lot of family ties to the military. To a lot of people, this is an important project. For the companies working on it, it becomes more personal. The community, too, is very eager to see this project. When you’re doing construction, that’s not always the case. You don’t always have full community support. This is a very positive experience, just seeing the community’s involvement and its level of commitment to this project.”