DALLAS - Citing what he called "deplorable" mismanagement of construction of a Veterans Administration hospital in his district, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., said he would introduce a bill to lift the $800 million cap on the project so it can be completed.
Coffman said a temporary deal struck between Kiewit-Turner and the Department of Veterans Affairs to complete construction of the VA replacement hospital in Aurora, Colo. will run out of money in three months.
"If the cap isn't lifted by the end of March, the workers will be forced off the job site again even if the VA can come up with the additional funding necessary to complete this project," Coffman said.
Without a change in the statute to lift the $800 million spending cap on the facility, the work will be stopped even if additional funding can be identified by shifting money around within the VA's existing construction budget or from the passage of a supplemental appropriation.
"Right now there is nothing that we can do to reverse the costly mistakes that the VA has made given its deplorable mismanagement of this project. This project can't be left sitting there half-finished," said Coffman.
Coffman is working with U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, the chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, on how to complete the Aurora VA hospital.
Culberson told Coffman that he would like to see language in a bill to lift the $800 million cap that would also transfer construction management authority to the Army Corps of Engineers for all future VA construction projects.
The troubled Aurora VA hospital construction project is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
Kiewit-Turner Construction, the general contractor on the Aurora project, sued the VA over allegations of gross mismanagement and on Dec. 9, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals sided with KT on every count. KT was granted the right to void the contract, throwing 1,400 construction workers off the job just before the holidays.
The next week, the VA and KT reached an interim agreement to temporarily resume construction while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers negotiates a new contract with KT to complete the project.
The Army Corps will then assume all management responsibilities on the Aurora project through its completion. Coffman has been an ardent critic of the VA and has long advocated putting the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of all VA construction projects.
"VA construction managers couldn't lead starving troops to a chow hall," said Coffman, a U.S. Army and Marine Corps veteran.
"The Army Corps of Engineers has built similar projects for the Department of Defense consistently on schedule and on budget while the VA never has," he said. "The Army Corps will do everything possible to control the cost to our taxpayers and speed the delivery of this much needed hospital to our veterans."
The project is part of the Anschutz Medical Campus, a bond-funded redevelopment of the former Fitzsimons Army Hospital anchored around a new University of Colorado medical school, a children's Hospital and other medical facilities.