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SD vets' home back on track

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By Bob Mercer

Capitol correspondent

PIERRE -- A governor's aide said Wednesday the new State Veterans Home that the Daugaard administration plans to build at Hot Springs has a new design that should save about $10 million.

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That will bring construction costs back within the $41.3 million the Legislature approved last winter.

The numbers of beds -- 52 for skilled nursing care and 48 for residential living -- aren't changing.

But they will be grouped by floor, with skilled nursing on the main level and residential on the second story.

That allows the home to be built with half as many wings -- four -- than was previously planned. In turn, construction costs on the rocky site will go down.

The wings originally were to be single floor.

Eric Matt, an aide to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, told a legislative committee that groundbreaking could happen in September and the completion target is November 2015.

In May, the governor said he would call the Legislature into special session on June 22 to seek additional funding for the project, after bids came in some $10 million or more above the architect's estimate.

He later canceled the session. The presentation Wednesday to legislators on the Government Operations and Audit Committee marked the first public information that the project was back on track.

The revisions are so fresh that an artist's rendering isn't yet available, according to Lt. Gov. Matt Michels. "(That) will be awhile as we still are finalizing," Michels said in response to a reporter's request.

There seemed to be a mix of skepticism, relief and curiosity among lawmakers as they asked about the revisions and the $10 million reduction.

"That just seems like a pretty big cut for accomplishing the same thing, and I hope it works," said Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton.

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