The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that it is moving ahead with a new $2.6 million VA outpatient clinic in Burlington.
The federal agency awarded a construction contract to Fortieth Burlington LLC, and the feds expect the project will create roughly 75 construction jobs. The facility will replace the Colchester clinic, which is the busiest in the state, and it is projected to serve roughly 4,000 veterans.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sits on U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said on Monday that the facility was long overdue.
“When you walk into the Colchester facility, it takes about five minutes to make at least an anecdotal observation that it’s simply overcrowded,” he said in a phone interview. “It has the largest patient load, and they simply don’t have the space they need to provide the level of care that they want to.
“Their office space for staff is totally inadequate, and their observation rooms and clinical rooms are not as large as they would like,” he added. “It’s simply an issue of the facility outgrowing the space it has.”
The new clinic will be more than 16,000 square feet — larger than twice the size of the current clinic. It will be housed in a refurbished building at 128 Lakeside Ave., which was once the home of a cotton mill.
According to Sanders’ office the VA plans to spend $350,000 a year to rent the space. Last year the VA paid out $329 million for health care, benefits and services to the state’s 52,000 veterans.
As a senior member of the VA Committee, Sanders has helped bring funds into the state for veterans.
“What I’m very proud of is in the last couple of years we’ve built two brand new facilities, one in Brattleboro and one in Newport,” he said. “In Rutland, we’ve replaced an older facility with a brand new facility. And now we’re going to replace the older facility in Colchester with a brand new facility in Burlington. … I try to expedite that process and make sure they pay adequate attention to Vermont.”
In recent weeks, rumors have begun circulating in Washington, D.C., that VA Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would step down and Sanders would take the committee’s lead role.
Sanders wouldn’t confirm whether the rumor is true. “That’s something we’ll have something to say about not right now. No final decision has been made, but once it is we’ll certainly make it public.”