I-Team 10 Update: Stalled VA Project

Posted at: 04/17/2013 5:15 PM
Updated at: 04/17/2013 6:17 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

I-Team 10 has an update on a stalled $15 million stimulus project at the VA Medical Center in Canandaigua. Construction on the energy-efficient steam generation plant has been delayed for more than a year, but there are now signs that the project may be getting back on track.

There appears to be some progress on re-starting work on the project, which should have been saving the taxpayer money by now. The steam generation plant was supposed to be up and running this past winter and was projected to save a million dollars a year in heating costs. But as I-Team 10 has been reporting, little to no real work has been going on there for some time.

It was a different scene Wednesday. When I-Team 10 went to the VA campus Wednesday afternoon, we saw backhoes and bulldozers on site, something we had not seen during our previous visits there the past five months. This is possibly the result of some changes in the person overseeing the project.

The plant will burn wood chips to power the 150 acre campus. The steam generation itself has been installed and is now covered in tarps. But the project stalled over disagreements between the VA and the contractor over design plans for the building that goes around it.

During our investigation, I-Team 10 uncovered legal documents by the contractor, Whiting Turner, which accused the VA of ordering changes to the plans, but refusing to pay for them. The VA responded by accusing the contractor of using inferior materials that were never approved.

I-Team 10 brought the stalled project to the attention of Congressman Chris Collins. Since then, he has been ratcheting up the pressure on veterans affairs, demanding answers for the delays. He says he has now met face-to-face with the VA administrator in Canandaigua after the contractor expressed frustration with the VA's project manager.

Chris Collins said, "That he was difficult to work with. He was not a problem solver and at the end of the meeting with no promises made, the administrator said he was going to share back with the VA the thoughts that that person should be removed."

Despite the encouraging signs of progress, Collins says he's been told it will still be the fall of 2014 before the project is fully complete, meaning another heating season will come and go, more lost savings for the VA and for taxpayers.

I-Team 10 will continue to stay on top of this important project and update you on the progress.