Construction is underway on a long-awaited $80 million overhaul of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, five years after money was first approved for the project.
Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar marked the start of construction on Tuesday on the John R. Moses Skilled Nursing Facility, which will replace another building that has sat vacant on the campus for years. The new project will be part of a larger $104 million upgrade of the King nursing home campus, which sits on 42 acres near Waupaca.
Work on the Moses nursing home comes after maintenance was deferred for years as money was transferred from the King operation to other veterans’ nursing homes in the state, according to a 2017 report from the Legislative Audit Bureau. Former Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in 2014 setting aside state money for an overhaul of the King veterans home, but construction was put on-hold while state officials waited to receive federal funding.
“This new facility will usher in a new era of WDVA service to veterans and their families,” Kolar said in a statement.
The Moses nursing home will have private rooms that will be split between 16 households and offer views of Rainbow Lake, in addition to technology improvements and an on-site memory-care unit. The 192-bed center will be the fourth building on the King campus and will replace the Burns-Clemmons Hall, which has sat unused for 20 years. Moses Hall is the first new building at the campus since Ainsworth Hall opened in 1993, said Carla Vigue, a spokeswoman for the department of veterans affairs.
Miron Construction won the $58.6 million primary contract to work on the Moses center, according to a company spokesman. And Eppstein Uhen Architects performed the design and engineering work, according to bidding documents.
The federal government is covering 65% of the project’s cost, or $55 million — money that was appropriated after the project waited for years on a waiting list. The state is contributing $28 million to the project.
While state officials were waiting to receive federal money, the project became the subject of some official scrutiny. A 2017 Legislative Audit Bureau report found it had fallen into disrepair and that the state department of veterans affairs had been taking money that could have been used for maintenance and sending it to other centers.
The department, according to the report, had not developed a clear way to identify capital needs. At times, projects have been delayed long after being approved. In one case, work to replace soiled carpet didn’t start until seven years after being given the green light by state officials.
King’s new residence hall is part of a series of projects that have included the replacement of a retaining wall on Rainbow Lake, water-system improvements, electrical and other safety work and an overhaul of the hall’s food-service areas. The nursing home campus, which houses veterans and their spouses, was founded in 1887 by a Civil War veterans organization.
“King has been a beautiful and important place for generations of veterans to live following their service to our nation,” Evers said. “I’m proud to be investing in King’s future. We are looking forward to serving Wisconsin’s veterans and their family members for years to come in this modern facility on this incredible campus.”