As a Nebraska Congressman wraps up his tenure in Washington, he hopes to see one project through to completion.
Congressman Brad Ashford expects Congress to approve the public-private partnership proposed to replace the aging VA hospital in Omaha.
“It’s exciting for the VA. It’s exciting for veterans,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I’m please we’ve gotten it this far and I anticipate a vote here in the next week or so.”
The bill sponsored by Ashford is similar to another working its way through the Senate which is sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer. It would allow the Veterans Administration to use different financing mechanisms to pay for a wide assortment of medical facilities. In Omaha, it would allow a local board to leverage $56 million in money set aside by the VA with private donations to replace the medical center located at 42nd and Center.
Construction of the Omaha project under the new financing scheme is seen as a way to avoid the overruns which have plagued other VA projects in the country, most notably the construction of a new VA hospital in Denver. That hospital is sinking under cost overruns topping $800 million dollars, more than double the projected cost of the building. The Denver project has gone so far over budget, it has effectively postponed work on other VA projects.
Ashford, a Democrat who lost his re-election bid to Republican Don Bacon, says approval will complete his promises when elected two years ago and provide a model for future VA projects.
“It’s so new and it’s such a different approach and it’s really challenging the VA to look outside itself to find better ways to develop facilities,” according to Ashford.
Ashford says he went to Congress determined to work across the political aisle and to secure funding to repair the Offutt Air Force Base runway, to replace the VA hospital in Omaha, and to create the new infectious disease research and training unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]