01.19.16

SCHUMER: CANANDAIGUA VA MEDICAL CENTER UPGRADE HAS BEEN DELAYED BY BUREAUCRATIC HOLD-UPS; NOW PROJECT RESPONSIBILITY IS BEING TRANSFERRED FROM VA TO ARMY CORPS; SCHUMER DEMANDS ARMY CORPS IMMEDIATELY APPROVE CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE, BEGIN CONSTRUCTION ASAP FOR THE NEW CLINIC UPGRADE, WHICH VETS IN THE AREA DESPERATELY NEED

Schumer Says Long-Awaited Upgrades Will Bring New Outpatient Clinic & Hundreds Of Local Construction Jobs; Senator Urges Army Corps Not to Delay ‎Construction Because of Project Transfer

Schumer To Feds: Move On Canandaigua Campus Upgrades Now – Get Approvals Out The Door & Shovels In The Ground‎ So Local Vets Can Get The Treatment They Deserve

Standing at the Cadence Square Building on the Canandaigua VA Medical Center campus, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get construction of the $122.4 million Canandaigua Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center upgrade project underway as soon as possible, in order to get this important project back on track for the thousands of area veterans who depend upon its services. Schumer explained that, under a new federal policy passed last September, the VA must turn over larger construction projects of over $100 million in scope to the Army Corps of Engineers to manage. However, Schumer said this process should not further hold up this already long-delayed and desperately needed $122.4 million campus upgrade. Therefore, Schumer is pushing the Army Corps to expeditiously approve the project transfer from the VA and break ground on this project. Schumer said that doing so will finally allow thousands of Rochester-Finger Lakes area veterans to access the modern and more efficient world-class medical treatment they deserve as well as create hundreds of good-paying local construction jobs during construction.

“Our veterans have protected and defended us, and it is our job to care for them when they come home. I was proud to fight to secure the $122 million in federal funds needed to bring this long-awaited facility upgrade to the Canandaigua VA campus. That is why I am urging the Army Corps, as it prepares to take over this critical project from the VA, to move full-steam ahead on this project so we can get the necessary approvals out the door and shovels in the ground,” said Schumer. “This investment is long overdue and will not only create hundreds of good-paying construction jobs as we build these cutting-edge facilities, but also finally give Rochester and Finger Lakes area veterans the care and services they deserve after serving our country bravely.”

The VA originally announced in 2007 that it would initiate a major reconstruction project to modernize the Canandaigua VA Medical Center with new construction and renovation to provide state-of-the-art care and meet the needs of current and projected future veterans.  This announcement came after Schumer, local veterans, and the community in 2003-2004 convinced the VA's Capital Asset Realignment for Enhancement Services (CARES) Commission to reverse the CARES' Commissions then-recommendation that the VA close the Canandaigua Medical Center.  Instead, after Schumer's urging, the VA agreed in 2004 to not only keep the VA Campus open, but to modernize it for future veterans to use and safeguard it from any future efforts to close the facility. Through Schumer’s efforts, the Canandaigua VA became one of only four VA major construction projects across the country that Senate appropriators recommended to receive construction funds in 2014.‎

To begin the redevelopment project, Schumer secured $36.58 million in FY 2010 to complete a new campus master plan, begin the project’s preliminary design work and complete environmental assessments. In 2013, Schumer wrote to VA Secretary Shinseki to include funding for the site in their budget request. In 2014, Schumer announced the VA agreed to this request and would provide the necessary $122.4 million as a part of the FY 2015 omnibus spending bill to begin the construction phase of this project. The $122 million appropriation funds phase I scope of work and represents a substantial portion of Canandaigua VA Medical Center's estimated $300 million redevelopment plan; which includes a modern outpatient clinic, additional housing and services.

Schumer has been a longtime supporter of the Canandaigua VA Medical campus, and its various improvement projects including securing the land lease needed to break ground on the Cadence Square housing development in 2012. Schumer has been a longtime champion of the Canandaigua VA campus upgrade, but says the project was delayed for years under the purview of the VA. Now that oversight of the project has been tasked to the Army Corps, Schumer is urging the Army Corps to ensure that this important project can get back on track. The planned project will modernize the campus for decades to come and effectively deliver a continuum of care for both recently returning veterans and aging veteran populations. Schumer said the Rochester-Finger Lakes area is home to tens of thousands of veterans, and this newly renovated and updated medical center campus will finally allow those veterans to access the healthcare options they need and deserve.

Specifically, the $122.4 million scope of work will include building a new, modern Outpatient clinic by renovating Building #2 on the Canandaigua VA Medical Center campus, as well as building a new structure on now-empty land between Building #1 and Building #2. Additionally, Building #3 will be renovated to add new rehabilitation and behavioral health services, and Building #1 will be renovated for new administrative support departments so that patients can more efficiently work with their health care providers. Future construction phases would also include the construction of new 120-bed community living centers, to include geropsychiatric services and hospice care, in addition to the renovation of Building #9 into a 50-bed domiciliary/residential rehabilitation facility.

Schumer said at the time the $122.4 million in construction funding was approved in December 2014, it was anticipated construction contracts could be awarded within twelve months, as soon as the fall of 2015. However, that process of soliciting contracts to build and renovate these facilities has not yet begun. Schumer said now that the Army Corps is poised to take over the project, the federal agency should do so expeditiously. Schumer said this project lagged under the VA over the last several years which is why he is now pushing the Army Corps to immediately move on the approvals it needs to transfer the project so construction can begin as soon as possible. Schumer said the construction phase of this project will not only bring area veterans one step closer to accessing the care they require near their homes but also create hundreds of good-paying local construction jobs, which  will positively impact the regional economy.

In addition, Schumer also said New York State is no stranger to harsh winters and cold temperatures and, as such, inclement weather can often shorten construction timelines or result in projects being put off until the following year’s construction season. Schumer said this could further put off this long-awaited facility improvement. Therefore, he said the Army Corps must continue moving forward with these approvals and transfers so the modernization of this facility is no longer stalled and construction can begin as soon as possible.

Schumer was joined by Wayne Thompson, Chairman of the Finger Lakes Veterans Advocacy Council (FLVAC), local veterans and elected officials.

Wayne Thompson, Chairman of the Finger Lakes Veterans Advocacy Council said, “The Finger Lakes Veterans Advocacy Council has long supported the planned major construction project to upgrade and improve the facilities at the Canandaigua VA Medical Campus to improve the health, safety, and quality of care for our veterans.  We appreciate Senator Schumer’s past efforts to help secure construction funding to start making the project a reality and appreciate his support today with the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the development on track.”

The Canandaigua VA Medical Center has provided services for veterans in the Rochester-Finger Lakes area since 1933 and has been recognized as a Center for Excellence. The facility houses the national VA Suicide Prevention/Crisis Hotline call center which has fielded over 600,000 calls since opening in 2007. 

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the Army Corps appears below:

Dear Lieutenant General Bostick:

I write to urge you to complete the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center reconstruction project as expeditiously as possible, as the project was delayed for years when it was under the purview of the VA. Now that oversight of the project has been tasked to the Army Corps, I urge you to ensure that this important project get back on track. 

Following a 2003 Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) commission assessment of the Canandaigua VA, I was pleased to support the area’s veterans and the local community to not only reverse a then recommendation by the Veterans Administration to close down the Canandaigua VA campus, but to instead maintain the facility and put a plan in place to modernize the campus with new specialty outpatient clinic, nursing, and residential facilities in order to serve future generations of veterans. As a result, in 2007 the VA initiated a plan to construct new 120-bed community living centers to include geropsychiatric services and hospice care, renovate building 9 into a 50-bed domiciliary/residential rehabilitation facility, and renovate buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4 for outpatient services, behavioral health services and administrative support departments.  The planned project will modernize the campus for decades to come and effectively deliver a continuum of care for both recently returning veterans and aging veteran populations.

This project was appropriated $122.4 million in the FY 2015 Omnibus appropriations bill that passed Congress and was signed into law in December 2014. The funding will enable the start of construction of the first phase of work on this construction modernization project. Specifically, the $122.4 million scope of work included building a new modern Outpatient clinic by renovating Building #2 as well as building a new structure on now-empty land between Building #1 and Building #2. Additionally, building #3 will be renovated to add new rehabilitation and behavioral health services and Building #1 will be renovated for new administrative support departments. The Canandaigua VA was one of only four major VA construction projects throughout the country selected for funding in Fiscal Year 2015 and the VA anticipated awarding contracts and beginning construction as soon as the fall of 2015.

Since that time, with the passage of Public Law 114-58, oversight of major VA construction projects with costs exceeding $100 million have been transferred to non-VA federal entities. As you know, oversight of the Canandaigua VA project was transferred to the Army Corps, and the Army Corps needs to prepare and complete an interagency agreement to map out a plan for moving forward for Army Corps Headquarters and VA review. This project has already been delayed, with the VA previously anticipating awarding contracts and beginning construction as soon as last fall after receiving $122.4 million for construction in FY 15 appropriations. I appreciate your attention to this important project, and urge you to do all that you can to ensure that this project gets back on track, and is completed as quickly as possible.  I also request you provide updates to the local community and local veterans as you advance the project

For the past 80 years, the Canandaigua VA Medical Center has provided much-needed care and support for our veterans across the Rochester Finger Lakes region and beyond, which is why it is critical to continue moving forward with improving and modernizing this facility. Thank you for your attention to this issue, and your help in advancing this important project. Should you have any questions or need any additional information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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