ShareThis Page

VA Butler project faces shortfall

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
A rendering of the VA Butler Health Care Center, which will replace the 1930s-era building as the VA Butler’s main outpatient clinic when it’s completed in 2015. Groundbreaking on the facility is scheduled for April 5.Submitted by: VA Butler Healthcare
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Department of Veterans Affairs VA Butler Thursday, March 28, 2013.

A developer wants $3.2 million in property tax breaks to help pay unexpected costs on a $75 million outpatient center at the VA Butler Healthcare complex, casting a shadow over the project as county and federal officials prepare for the groundbreaking Friday morning.

Some officials balked at the idea for a project they thought was set.

“Certainly, from our perspective, this creates a significant hurdle for us to overcome,” Westar Development Co. President Sam Calabrese said. “At this point, we are very concerned. Our approach is that we will bear the majority of the burden of the shortfall, but this is a peace offering so we can make everything work.”

He said shortfalls on the project could reach $9 million.

The developer last month asked Butler County commissioners, Butler Township commissioners and the Butler Area School District to approve a TIF, or tax-increment financing district, which would use new property tax revenue the project generates for eight years to help finance work.

The school district said it could discuss the issue at Monday's school board meeting. County Commission Chairman Bill McCarrier said he didn't see a lot of support for the TIF among the three taxing bodies.

“I'm just not leaning toward doing it,” McCarrier said. “They are a private, for-profit corporation.”

When asked what would happen if the TIF isn't approved, Calabrese said, “I think there's the potential for there to be issues down the road, but right now, I can't say one way or another.”

Veterans Affairs officials said they expect the project to move ahead without interruption and that they will be in the building in 2015. The VA will lease the building from Westar for an average of $7.6 million a year for 20 years.

“Everything that was needed for this project was known,” said Kenneth Kalberer, VA health systems specialist. “We have full confidence everything will be done well and it will be something the (VA) and the veterans and the community can be proud of.”

Westar estimated the project would generate about $440,000 annually in taxes for the three taxing bodies for what was untaxed land, with the school district receiving more than 70 percent.

Calabrese said the unexpected costs include a $2.5 million drainage system, because water from a nearby property tripled the size of wetlands. Calabrese said developers have to spend at least $500,000 to upgrade the power grid and between $200,000 and $300,000 for traffic upgrades PennDOT requires.

“It does concern me a little bit because it was initially pitched to the township as, ‘Hey, this property is back on the tax rolls, and you'll get ‘X' amount of dollars each year,' and now they're going back on this position,” said township commission President Ben Simon. He added that he “will give them a little bit of sympathy” because he felt some of the issues, such as the drainage, were out of the developer's control.

“I wouldn't place the blame anywhere,” Calabrese said. “That's why we're saying we will bear the burden of the majority of the shortfall. It's to keep the project moving forward.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.