VA project breaks ground on Veterans Day

       The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) chose a timely way to celebrate the observed date of Veterans Day Nov. 12 - by breaking ground for the new VA clinic on Fillmore Hill.

Veterans hold their salutes as the American Legion Post 209 (left) and American Medical Response Team color guards post the colors during the groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 12 for the Colorado Springs Community Based Outpatient Clinic on Fillmore Hill. Plans call for the facility to open in May 2014.
Westside Pioneer photo

       More than 200 invitees attended the ceremony inside a temporary tent on the construction site - beside the not-yet-opened Centennial Boulevard just south of Fillmore Street.
       The newly planned opening date is May 2014, which is moved up from the November 2014 date announced a few months ago. If it's delayed, it could be said that VA officials will have already “eaten their words,” because the May 2014 date appeared on the cake served at the groundbreaking.
       The three-story, 80,000-square-foot building is being called the Colorado Springs Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). It will replace two current outpatient VA clinics, at 25 N. Spruce St. and 320 E. Fontanero Street (Suite 200), which have just 36,000 square feet between them.
       “One percent of the population who go to war sacrifice everything to preserve our way of life,” said keynote speaker William Schoenhard, a Navy veteran and deputy undersecretary for operation and management of the Veterans Health Administration. “They have earned these benefits. We owe it to our veterans.”
       He also noted that this region is a popular place for veterans to retire. “I've seen the two clinics that we have open,” he said. “It's time to build a consolidated facility.” This statement was followed by applause from the audience, many of whom were veterans in uniform.
       The crowd also gave a standing ovation to singer Paula Wynn, after her a-capella rendition of “I'm Proud to Be an American.”
       According to VA officials, the new clinic will continue current clinical programs (including pre-operative services, ophthalmology, primary care, lab and X-ray), with the expansion of radiology to include MRIs, CT scans and ultrasound capability. This will mean a “one-stop shop,” said Lynette Roff, director of the Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS), who served as master of ceremonies.
       Along with Schoenhard and Roff, dignitaries in the groundbreaking were Steve Bach, Colorado Springs mayor; Amy Lathen, El Paso County commissioner; Steve Rylant, vice president of the United Veterans Committee; Kathleen Hatten, director of Peak Military Care Network; and Ralph Gigliotti, network director of VA Rocky Mountain Network VISN 19.

An artist's rendering shows the front of the planned three-story VA clinic on Fillmore Hill.
Courtesy of Dan Warvi and the Veteran Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System

       The number of patients at the Colorado Springs CBOC is growing at the rate of 8 percent a year.
       The building will not take up all of the 18-acre property, but “we don't have any plans to sublease,” said Dan Warvi, public affairs officer for ECHCS. “We do want to be able to expand, if necessary.”

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