At a time when budgets are being cut, a record number of active duty and retired military members seeking healthcare and scandal rocking the Veterans Administration hospital system, it has been learned that $8 million worth of never used solar panels have been torn down at the VA’s Arkansas facility in Little Rock.
The VA had roughly 7,000 unused solar panels taken down to make way for a new parking garage Little Rock news outlet KATV reports.
The panels are being taken down for the construction of a parking garage. According to sources familiar with the construction project, the unused panels will be relocated to the top of that parking garage – eventually. When asked for the financial impact of the teardown and rebuild:
“The Central Arkansas VA would not release the estimated cost to construct the panels and then later deconstruct them, calling it “procurement sensitive information”, because the parking garage contract is ongoing.”
KATV reported that:
“…the VA did not provide information on what stage the solar panel project was in when the parking garage was approved or if they could have halted the construction of that section of solar panels if there were plans to tear them down.”
“The VA approved the Parking Garage project (and the subsequent location) after the Solar Project had already broken ground,” a spokesman for the VA said in a statement.”
The VA built the solar panels in 2013 using an $8 million dollar grant from the federal government and were expected to produce 1.8 megawatts of power, but the project hit a snag.
In a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, Rep. French Hill (R., Ark.) said his office will investigate the project. Hill said:
“The $8 million solar panel project, which appears to have been changed on a whim, may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to the staggering $18 trillion federal debt, but every expense must be fully justified and our financial resources directed to assisting those we are trying to help—in this case Arkansas’s veterans…”
“If this story proves accurate, then simply put this is a government failure, and I will work with Congressional leadership and the VA to figure out how such a blatant waste of taxpayer money was ever allowed to occur.”
The hospital is expected to cost $1.73 billion, about $1 billion more than budgeted. The VA has blamed problems in the planning process, extravagant design elements and other factors. An internal investigation is underway.
In a separate inquiry, the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is investigating the Denver VA over a hospital construction project that has so far cost $1.73 billion or $1 billion more than the original price tag of $730 million.