State Rep. Kevin Petersen has introduced a bill to authorize $80 million in bonds to build a new residential hall at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
If approved by the state legislature and the governor, the new hall will be called the John R. Moses Skilled Nursing Facility.
“It’s a bipartisan bill,” Petersen said, “We did a lot of background research and legwork with other legislators for bipartisan sponsorshop to get this through.”
The bill, LRB 3252/1, is co-authored by two Democrats, Rep. Dianne Hesselbein and Sen. Tim Carpenter, and by two Republicans, Petersen and Sen. Jerry Petrowski.
“I feel very optimistic for passage this spring session,” Petersen said. “Even if it doesn’t pass this session, we’ve started the wheels in motion.”
Petersen said he is working to get the bill in committee hearing in early February and on the chamber floor in mid-February.
If the bill is passed this session, Petersen anticipates the building will be ready for residents in about four years.
Two older buildings in King – Burns-Clemens Hall built in 1959 and Ove Hall built in 1929 – will be demolished to provide the area needed for the new 200-bed facility.
Petersen said the two older buildings are now used primarily for storage, training and a homeless veterans program.
“Both buildings have significant structural issues or water damage that would require extensive repair,” Petersen said.
Once the project is completed, residents will be moved from Stordock Hall to Moses Hall.
“An old building is like an old car. There comes a point where it’s more economical to replace it than to repair it,” Petesen said. “Do we put $5 million into a building that may not be around in 10 years or do we start looking to the future.”
Petersen said the Wisconsin Veterans Home also needs to update its facilities.
“King is falling behind because its facilities are more institutional,” Petersen said, noting the facilities have long hallways and large dining areas.
The Wisconsin Veterans Home operates four separately licensed nursing homes, providing long-term care for more than 700 members.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs currently recommends housing residents in “a more home-like environment.”
Moses Hall will be designed with small living units for 8-12 residents, each with its own living room and dining room.
Petersen said Moses Hall will also address safety issues for dementia patients.
“Currently, members with dementia are housed on Ainsworth Hall’s second floor,” Petersen said. “An emergency requiring evacuation could render these members vulnerable.”
Petersen said Moses Hall will be designed to house dementia patients on the ground floor.
According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, the bonding for the construction project will be financed with $52 million in program revenues and $28 million in general fund supported borrowing.
Petersen explained that program revenues are the federal funds paid to the veterans home for the services it provides. The other $28 million is backed by Wisconsin taxpayers.
The man behind the name
Every named hall at King honors a veteran with Wisconsin ties.
According to a December 2007 obituary, John R. Moses entered military service in September 1941 at the age of 22. He served 14 months in an anti-aircraft unit at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, coming under Japanese attack twice in June 1942.
In 1943, he was ordered to Armored Force Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Ky., and graduated with the rank of second lieutenant.
Moses was assigned to the 10th Armored Division, and ordered overseas in August 1944. He participated in the attack on German forts at Metz, France, led the point platoon in General Patton’s drive across Moselle River to Siegfried Line, was severely wounded in combat on the German border and was subsequently hospitalized for 13 months.
He retired as first lieutenant on permanent disability on Dec. 18, 1945. He then completed his education and became an attorney in Madison.
In 1962, Gov. Gaylord Nelson appointed Moses as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
During the more than 20 years that Moses served as secretary, he introduced innovative state programs to assist veterans.
He launched a part-time study grant program, created a new home loan program, created the only statewide outreach program in the nation to find and assist returning Vietnam veterans and directed the conversion of the Wisconsin Veterans Home from an old soldiers’ home to a skilled nursing care facility.