Senate committee approves Canandaigua VA bill, heads to Senate floor

Updated: 05/26/2014 2:19 PM
Created: 05/26/2014 12:21 PM WHEC.com
By: Julie Sherwood/Messenger Post

A Canandaigua VA Medical Center building project jumped another hurdle Friday with passage of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the bill, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, includes $122.4 million for the Canandaigua VA project. The legislation now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

The VA project is aimed at modernizing the campus on 400 Fort Hill Ave. that was built in the 1930s. All told, the project is expected to cost about $370 million. The plan was the subject of a public meeting May 6 at the VA, in which a small but vocal group of veterans raised concerns the money was being spent on buildings at a time when the VA faces a growing number of veterans needing health care, as well as health care-delivery problems within the VA system that have resulted in many calling for the Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

Even so, most area veterans see progress on the building plan as positive.

“It is my gut feeling that it will enhance services,” said Vietnam veteran Robert Van Keuren of Canandaigua.

Having easier physical access to quality of care and state-of-the-art services “sounds like a fairly good deal to me,” he said.

Another local vet, Marine Corps veteran Tom Pridell, said the upgrade is “necessary to fit the modern flow of care.”

The project calls for demolishing Buildings 33 and 34 to construct a new community living center consisting of 10 one-story detached cottages interconnected by enclosed walkways, as well as remodeling existing Building 9 into a new 50-bed domiciliary; constructing a new outpatient clinic; and renovating three historic buildings (Buildings 1, 3, and 4), along with other upgrades.

The project began in 2010 with a new VA master plan, design work and an environmental assessment done using $36.58 million of federal dollars.

The Canandaigua VA is one of only four VA construction projects in the nation that Senate appropriators have recommended receive funds, according to a release from Gillibrand and Schumer. If the Senate passes the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, construction can move forward. The same funding allotment for the project at the Canandaigua VA was included in the House version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that passed the House by a 416-1 vote in late April, the senators stated.

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