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Rep. Kelly grills VA on Butler outpatient center

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Rep. Mike Kelly is demanding that the Department of Veterans Affairs explain why it stopped construction on a $75 million outpatient center in Butler and whether the facility will ever be built.

“The veterans and other constituents in Western Pennsylvania continue to have a number of questions about this project and even more in the light of recent developments,” Kelly wrote in a letter dated Wednesday to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.

Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Josephine Schuda said Thursday that her agency would respond to the congressman before addressing media inquiries about the questions he raised. Kelly set an Oct. 4 deadline for the VA to provide him with answers.

“Is there any consideration to terminating this project all together and instead focusing on upgrading care, facilities and processing at the current Veterans Hospital facility in Butler?” Kelly asked.

On Aug. 9, the VA terminated the lease on the outpatient center being built by Westar Development Co. of Aurora, Ohio, accusing it of “false and misleading representations” during the bidding process. The VA had stopped work June 21 based on an investigation by its Office of Inspector General “of the prime contractor and certain company representatives.”

Kelly asked for a copy of the Inspector General's report or for the VA to explain the “false and misleading statements.”

Westar President Sam Calabrese did not return messages.

Westar won a contract in May 2012 to build the outpatient center on property adjacent to the VA's Butler Township campus and lease the clinic back to the VA. Kelly has criticized the lease agreement, saying it cost too much. Kelly wants to know how much the government has paid Westar and if it recovered any money from the company.

The Tribune-Review submitted a formal request for records related to the project in August and is awaiting those records.

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

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