Veterans Home budget passes Legislature

The North Dakota Legislature has passed the compromise bill for the state Veterans Home in Lisbon.

Money from a private donation will be used for irrigation, oxbow and landscaping projects, as well as moving a gazebo to the new Veterans Home location. The bill also allows the Veterans Home to use money from the donation to hire an architect to come up with plans for a workshop on the grounds.

In addition, the bill creates a Melvin Norgard memorial fund. When Norgard died in 1992, he gave the Veterans Home the mineral rights he owned for 120 acres of land about seven miles south of Watford City in McKenzie County.

The new fund will collect all of Norgard’s donated money from mineral lease income, royalties and sale proceeds. Money in the fund will be available for projects and programs to benefit Veterans Home residents.

Spending would be subject to legislative approval after considering recommendations from the governing board of the Veterans Home.

The budget easily passed the House. However, Senate Democrats spoke against using the donated money for the three grounds projects, saying state money should be used instead.

“I was hoping we could do better than this,” Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, said of the compromise bill.

Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, said he was concerned about sending the wrong message to the Norgard family and to other potential donors who may wonder if their gifts “would be used appropriately.”

The intent was to use the donated money for something identifiable, he said.

Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, defended the bill, saying veterans who attended the compromise meetings were on board with the end result. If the veterans are short on money for the workshop project, the Legislature will provide funding for it next session, he said.

“We guaranteed them we were going to finish the project one way or another,” Bowman said.

The bill will now go to the governor for his signature.

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