County veterans hear from VA about fate of clinic

300-VA-LETTERYesterday, Historic City News learned that St Johns County veterans were receiving letters from the VA Medical Center in Gainesville; providing at least some, although limited, information on the future of the outpatient clinic in St. Augustine.

Citing strict Federal Acquisition Regulations, the VA spokesman stated that the Veterans Administration cannot accept certain St. Johns County’s proposal to move the clinic into its new health and human services building that held its ribbon cutting and grand opening last week.

“They have been renting from the county all these numbers of years and they didn’t seem to be concerned about these federal regulations that time, why is this a problem now?” asked St. Johns County Veterans Council chairman, Bill Dudley, during a televised interview aired on CBS Jacksonville affiliate WJAX.

Starting April 1, the VA will start paying Lowes a “hold over” fine of $53,000-a-month on top of it $33,000 monthly rent for the current community clinic. The penalty rent will continue until they move to a temporary clinic, expected to be in September.

Historic City News editor, Michael Gold, has questioned the motivation of some Veterans Affairs decision makers who are responsible for the poor management of this transition.

“Why in the world something as simple as this relocation would be delayed this long is beyond me, unless someone connected to the construction stands to gain financially or otherwise,” Gold said. “For the federal government to use taxpayer funds to willingly pay nearly twice the rent for this clinic is unconscionable — and the treatment of American veterans, who do not need to be worried about when, where, or how to receive the medical care promised for their service to our nation, amounts to something akin to treason.”

Gold also said that the veil of secrecy surrounding the acquisition of a permanent site, the selection of the contractor, and other details, is extremely suspect.

The letter identified a location on the edge of the Ponce de Leon Mall, at the corner of Old Moultrie Road and Southpark Boulevard, as the “temporary” clinic location. The long term clinic, at a yet undisclosed location, is tentatively scheduled for completion two years from now.

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