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Gates Hall a 12th-hour addition to state’s building program

The state’s budget committee approved a late addition to the state’s 2011-13 building program Wednesday afternoon.

Gates Hall at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in Union Grove, a 42-bed assisted living facility that has been vacant since August, will be converted into a 38-bed skilled nursing facility under a proposal unanimously approved by the Joint Finance Committee.

The $4.9 million project, which must be approved by the full Legislature and signed off by Gov. Scott Walker, would provide beds to more than 20 veterans on a waiting list to enter Boland Hall, a 120-bed skilled nursing operation that has been at capacity for several years, according to state Department of Veterans Affairs officials.

The state’s building program is typically settled every two years in the Legislature’s biennial budget. Senate Bill 442 and Assembly Bill 546, proposed by Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, respectively, are required for the project to be added to the building program before the end of the session this spring.

If the bills aren’t approved by the Legislature, the project would be put on hold for at least 18 months, officials said, meaning Gates Hall would be vacant and underutilized.

Sixty-five percent of the project will be paid with federal grant money, while the remainder will be paid using existing program revenue from the DVA, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis.

In a statement, Wanggaard said he expected the full Senate to consider his bill next week, and then the proposal would move on to the Assembly for review.

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