DENVER --The Army Corps of Engineers will now oversee construction of the new Veterans Administration hospital in Aurora. The announcement came from Congressman Mike Coffman Wednesday night. Coffman hopes workers will be back on the job soon.
A federal board of appeals ruled the Veterans Administration broke its contract with the contractor building the new VA hospital. The contractor, Kiewit-Turner is stopping work at the project Tuesday.
FOX31 Denver received emails from people who said they were construction workers who were told to go home when they showed up for work late Tuesday.
The Veterans Administration said in a statement that it learned Tuesday night that Kiewit-Turner canceled the contract and that the contractors are stopping work at the site immediately. "VA is currently exploring alternatives and will provide additional information as it becomes available. VA is committed to building this replacement hospital. In the meantime the Denver VA hospital continues to provide quality care to our Veterans."
The VA hospital construction project near I-225 and Colfax Avenue has been plagued with delays because of design changes, cost overruns and the heated dispute between the VA and the construction company.
The original price tag was $582.8 million. But Kiewit-Turner said it could not finish the project for less than $1 billion. It previously told the board it had the right to stop work on the project until additional funding was secured to pay for it.
The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals agreed with the contractors that the VA did not meet its contractual obligation by producing a design that could be built for $604 million, the amount authorized by Congress. The Board also said the VA designed a project that would cost more than $1 billion.
Kiewit-Turner said, "Because actual estimates put the project at more than $1 billion, it is clear that the VA does not have the funds to continue construction and the VA has publicly stated it would not seek additional funds. Accordingly, Kiewit-Turner has now notified the VA that it will immediately cease all work on the project and begin a safe and orderly process to secure the site."
Members of Colorado's congressional delegation reacted quickly.
"Finally, the VA is being held accountable," U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said. "Now we should move forward to provide Colorado’s veterans with better access to health care services and build them the facility they deserve. The VA should take steps to unlock reserve funds to complete this project in the most efficient and responsible manner possible. Our veterans have waited far too long for this hospital to be built."
U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman said, "The Veterans Administration’s core mission is to provide for the health care and other benefits that the men and women who have served our country in the military have earned. The VA is clearly not a construction entity and they need to get out of the business so that we can better meet the needs of our veterans by getting these facilities built. The mismanagement of the Aurora construction project is not an isolated problem, every major construction project that the VA is currently working on is dramatically over budget and behind schedule."
Coffman plans to call a meeting with the Colorado congressional delegation and the VA to find a path forward. "We have an obligation to our veterans to get this hospital built and we have an obligation to the taxpayers to do everything we can to bring down the cost.”