VA outpatient clinic decision in 2010

Published 9:00 am Monday, November 23, 2009

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic that is planned to be built in south-central Minnesota will likely come in 2010 after the new clinic in the northwest metro is worked out, a VA spokesman said Friday.

The spokesman, Ralph Heussner, said the south-central clinic is still in the early planning stages.

Once the northwest metro clinic location is settled out, officials will be able to focus more diligently on the south-central clinic, he said. He did not have a more specific timeline.

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The clinic, which would serve not only Minnesota veterans but Iowa veterans as well, has a possibility of being built in Albert Lea, Owatonna and Austin.

In December 2008, officials in Washington, D.C., announced plans for the two VA clinics in Minnesota; however, plans for the south-central location have been slow in the making.

Local officials said they think Albert Lea would be an ideal location for a new community-based outpatient clinic, considering accessibility and demographics.

Typically, if VA officials are interested in a community, they will ask that community to submit a proposal about why they should come there.

Freeborn County Veterans Services Officer Jon Rhiger said in a May Tribune article that he does not think Austin would have much of an opportunity to get the clinic because of its proximity to the Rochester clinic. However, that has not been officially announced.

Others speculate Owatonna has a good shot because it just built a new hospital, and the old one remains available.