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Buffalo wins final approval for vet facility

BUFFALO — After months of legislative debate, the Wyoming State Building Commission has given the final word on the location of the state's first skilled nursing facility for veterans.

That word? Buffalo.

“This is a big sigh of relief for me and for everyone who has lobbied to locate this facility in Buffalo,” Johnson County Commissioner Bill Novotny said. “I want to thank the five elected officials on the building commission for realizing that Buffalo is the best place for this facility. This facility will get built, and it will be built here in Buffalo.”

The building commission – composed of Gov. Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Edward Buchanan, State Auditor Kristi Racines, State Treasurer Curt Meier and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow – voted unanimously on Oct. 9 to locate the facility in Buffalo.

Novotny said that the building commission meeting would have been the last place to attempt “any last-minute maneuvers” to move the facility out of Buffalo.

“At this point, construction in Buffalo is a done deal,” Novotny said. “We still have to finish the design work and secure funding for the project, but unless some legislation comes forward this spring to cancel the project entirely, it will be located in Buffalo.”

Novotny said that design work on the project is ongoing and scheduled to be completed by March 2020, with construction bids going out in April. Groundbreaking is set for Aug. 15, 2020, with construction expected to be complete in 2022.

The state is also pursuing funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the project, Novotny said. The VA will pay for 65 percent of the project costs, while 35 percent will be funded by the state. The state will maintain ownership and operation of the facility. In Enrolled Act 104, which approved the construction of the 36-bed skilled nursing facility, the state allocated up to $9 million for the project.

“At this point, both the funding and the design phase are going smoothly and everything is on target for the Aug. 15 start date,” Novotny said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs skilled nursing facility will provide long-term care to veterans, their spouses and Gold Star families.

The Wyoming Legislature voted to locate the facility in Buffalo in February after the town was chosen over Casper and Sheridan. The facility will be built on the campus of the 117-bed Veterans' Home of Wyoming.

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