WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is being pressed to explain continuing delays in building a veterans health clinic in Pahrump, eight months after Nevada lawmakers said they were told groundbreaking was imminent.
“The critical demand for a quality veteran care facility has gone unanswered for far too long,” Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., said in a letter sent to VA Secretary Robert McDonald.
In the letter sent Friday and made public Monday, Hardy asked McDonald to explain why the project has become stalled again, what steps the VA is taking to move it forward and how long it would take to complete.
Spokesman Scott Knuteson said Hardy has received conflicting reports about the project, hearing from some the VA is near ready to break ground while others saying it could be another 12 to 18 months.
“Our multiple inquiries of the appropriate offices to this matter have gone unanswered,” Knuteson said. “That’s why we are engaging the VA secretary. We feel like we really need to get to the bottom of this.”
VA spokesman Richard Beam said the agency plans to award a construction contract in June. He did not explain the holdup. A spokeswoman said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., also has renewed queries to the VA about the project.
Reid and then-Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., pressed VA officials in a meeting in June about the project, which had proceeded in fits and starts over the previous two years.
Soon after he was confirmed as VA secretary, McDonald signed paperwork to begin the permitting process to build a 9,948-square-foot clinic next to Desert View Hospital in the town 70 miles west of Las Vegas.
At the time, Horsford said groundbreaking could take place in September. But eight months later there is no visible evidence of progress at the site.
In the meantime, the VA in February celebrated a grand opening at a new clinic in Laughlin.
The Pahrump project had required a signoff from Washington after construction bids came in higher than the threshold for local approvals. The clinic would roughly be double the 4,500 square foot temporary facility in use now.
There are about 8,000 veterans living in Nye County, with 6,000 in Pahrump.