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Contract Dispute At Center Of New VA Hospital Construction Delay

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The area designated for the new VA Hospital in Aurora. (credit: CBS)

The area designated for the new VA Hospital in Aurora. (credit: CBS)

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- There have been seven fruitless groundbreakings in Aurora for the new Veterans Administration Hospital. The latest delay is attributed to a contract dispute between the VA and its builder.

The dispute has dragged on for two years. It was resolved after Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter got involved. Excavation could begin as early as next week.

Vietnam Vet Artie Guerrero has been working for 12 years to get a new VA Hospital built on the Fitzsimons campus.

“We are frustrated and furious of the fact that number one we’ve been promised, we’ve been promised, we’ve been promised,” said Guerrero.

“I think the frustration has reached the point where I sent a pretty hot letter to the secretary,” said Perlmutter, a Democrat representing the 7th District of Colorado.

Two years ago there was a ceremonial ground breaking at the site. But in that time, the VA still hasn’t started construction.

Congress had allocated $800 million for the hospital and engineering and design work was completed, but the VA and its contractor couldn’t reach a deal.

After Perlmutter threatened a protest the two sides finally came to an agreement.

When asked what the sticking points were in negotiations between the contractor and the VA, Perlmutter responded, “I don’t know. I don’t know who is holding it up at any given time. The good news is that it is moving forward.”

Guerrero is skeptical, “I don’t know what to believe.”

The current hospital is more than 50 years old. It has 125 beds for 500,000 veterans.

Perlmutter expects construction to start next week. He said if it does, he will hold a party on Nov. 21. If construction doesn’t begin, he will plan a protest instead.

The new VA Hospital was planned to open in 2014. That date is expected to be pushed back at least one year.

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