SHERIDAN — Progress on a planned skilled veteran’s nursing facility is proceeding on schedule, Wyoming Veteran’s Commission Executive Director Tim Sheppard told the state Legislature’s Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee Thursday.
Lawmakers authorized construction of a skilled veterans nursing facility — which would be the state’s first — in Buffalo during the Legislature’s most recent session.
According to the timeline Sheppard presented the committee, the planning and design work on the proposed facility has progressed on schedule to this point. Whether the project can maintain that momentum will largely depend on an approaching deadline.
The project will hinge on the approval of federal funding to assist with construction of the facility. Ryan Scranton, a project manager with the Wyoming Construction Department, said the state will know whether those funds have been approved in December. While the project would struggle to move forward without that funding, Scranton said he is confident it will be available.
“We have every indication we will be granted those funds,” Scranton said.
While state officials expect the funds to be approved in the next few months, they are less clear on when the federal money will be disbursed to the state. The only guarantee, Sheppard said, is the funds should be available by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2020. The timeline could shift slightly based on when that funding is delivered.
Looking forward, the timeline schedules design work on the project to be finished by March 2020, with construction bids going out in April. The timeline suggests the state will negotiate a construction contract in May and finalize all necessary agreements to begin construction in Aug. 2020.
During the latest legislative session, lawmakers debated between locating the facility in Buffalo or Casper, with Sheridan as a distant third option. While Buffalo won out, several lawmakers raised concerns about Buffalo’s ability to supply sufficient staffing for the center. Physicians within Johnson County shared that concern and some doctors who lived in the community argued against building the facility in Buffalo.
On Thursday, Johnson County Commission Chairman Bill Novotny told the committee the community has been working to head off those concerns. He said the Johnson County Health Center has partnered with Sheridan College on a program that trains certified nursing assistants to create a local workforce for the facility. Novotny added that Buffalo High School will begin offering a CNA program in January, as well.
He noted, however, that the state has been slow to approve CNA licenses and is currently working through a backlog of pending licenses.
The state is currently taking between three and six weeks to approve those licenses, Novotny said, though he added he has spoken to Gov. Mark Gordon about the issue, and Gordon assured him the state was working on expediting the process.