VA awarded money for new construction project

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WALLA WALLA - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded an almost $23 million contract for construction of a new outpatient clinic on the grounds at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Chicago-based Walsh Construction Co., doing business as Walsh Pacific, will build the roughly 70,000-square-foot, two-story clinic, according to an announcement this week from Brian Westfield, director of the Wainwright facility.

"This new clinic is a badly needed addition to this facility that will enable us to offer the best possible care for our area veterans," Westfield said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday.

He said the new facility, to be constructed on what is now a parking lot just south of the VA chapel, will continue the VA's mission to provide exceptional health care that improves the health and well-being of American veterans.

It's also another step in a more than five-year process to revamp health care services at the VA's 88-acre Walla Walla campus. In 2004, Walla Walla's VA hospital was threatened with closure as part of a national realignment plan for veterans medical services.

The concept of an outpatient clinic to consolidate services at the sprawling campus came after the community was spurred to action. Bolstered by efforts from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., more than $71 million was appropriated for design and construction at the campus.

The new outpatient building will include a connecting quarter to the existing Building 86, which currently houses specialty care and other offices, said Linda Wondra, public affairs officer for the Wainwright medical center.

Construction is not expected to begin until next spring, Wondra said. Walsh Pacific will build the new clinic with 175 parking spaces. The contract includes associated site work related to campuswide upgrades to antiquated utility distribution systems, according to the announcement.

The new facility is expected to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver-certified. Wondra said a number of details continue to be worked out on the historic fort property before construction begins.

"We know it's been a long time coming," she said. "This is getting us closer to the final step where we can actually start breaking ground."

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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