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Measure for new $136M VA facility in Omaha signed into law

December 17, 2016 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure allowing a public-private partnership to build a $136 million veterans medical facility in Omaha.

Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, of Omaha, announced Friday’s signing in a news release. Ashford pushed the bill through the House; U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, sponsored it in the Senate.

Under the measure, the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide $56 million to build 157,000 square feet of new medical space next to the current VA hospital in Omaha. Private donors will be asked to put up the remaining $80 million.

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A 2007 study found the current hospital was plagued by problems in its electrical, heating and cooling systems. In 2011, the VA unveiled plans for a $560 million, 1 million-square-foot replacement. Congress approved $56 million to start the project planning, and the new structure tentatively was scheduled to open in 2018. But the plans and work were delayed by funding shortages and changing VA priorities.

The public-private funding of the new facility will be the first of its kind, Ashford told the Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/2hddvtx ).

A trio of local businessmen who have signed on to provide the private donations for the facility are already in talks with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ashford said.

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The outgoing congressman said officials hope to have the design phase underway early next year, with the facility completed in 2018.

Ashford’s bid for a second term in Congress was thwarted by the election of Republican Don Bacon for Nebraska’s 2nd District seat in November.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com