Progress toward the construction of a new veterans health care clinic in Bakersfield passed another milestone this week.
According to a notice from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency awarded a lease contract Monday to San Diego-based SASD Development Group LLC to build a new VA community-based outpatient clinic in Bakersfield.
The new clinic, which is slated to be constructed near Olive and Knudsen drives, has been a long time in coming after several false starts and on again-off again announcements.
But this week’s announcement appears to solidify the effort to construct a new clinic.
Once completed, the facility will replace the existing clinic that has operated on Westwind Drive, west of downtown Bakersfield, for decades.
According to the government notice, the VA accepted an offer to lease 30,100 square feet of office area, along with parking and outdoor common areas. Once complete, the lease is expected to be set for 20 years, during which the VA will pay the lessor $223,166 per month, or $2.67 million per year. The 20-year term of the lease will be worth more than $53 million.
In a response to the notice Wednesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, appeared to place the blame for the delays squarely on the shoulders of the VA.
“Despite a new CBOC (clinic) in Bakersfield being delayed by the VA for over a decade, this week’s announcement is nonetheless welcome news to our community, and especially our local veterans who have patiently waited long enough,” McCarthy said in a statement.
“Our local veterans have long been promised an updated VA facility,” he said, “and I will continue to work in Congress to ensure that a new CBOC becomes a reality as soon as possible.”
Congress authorized the construction of a new clinic more than 10 years ago, but progress toward a new clinic seemed to go nowhere. In 2018, the VA awarded SASD — the same firm that received the latest contract, $40 million contract for construction.
But the owners of Bakersfield’s existing VA facility objected to the contract, saying the VA admitted to not giving their proposal a fair shake, and claiming a planned remodel of the current location would be faster, better and less costly than a new clinic.
Their organization, Progress for Bakersfield Veterans, LLC, opposed the permitting process for the Olive Drive site since the VA awarded its contract to SASD.
In light of past failures, local veterans must be wondering whether this newest contract will come to fruition.
Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.
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