Baucus, Tester: More than $3.2 million headed Ft. Harrison

Jobs Bill money will create jobs by improving veterans’ facilities

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – More Montanans may find work by improving the campus of Montana’s only VA hospital, thanks to more than $3.2 million announced today by Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester.

The $3,210,000 is coming to Montana as part of the recently passed Jobs Bill, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or the “stimulus bill.” Both Baucus and Tester helped write, voted for and passed the Jobs Bill earlier this year.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determined which projects at Ft. Harrison to fund. The VA said Ft. Harrison will receive:

  • $700,000 to remove lead paint from historic buildings at Ft. Harrison. This is a multi-phase process. The first phase will begin this summer.
  • $680,000 to replace Ft. Harrison’s centralized high-pressure steam heating system with smaller low-pressure systems for each building. The low-pressure heating systems are more energy efficient.
  • $680,000 for various energy conservation projects.
  • $650,000 to repair sewer lines and plumbing in several buildings on the Ft. Harrison campus. The money will also be used to replace traditional water heaters with instant, energy-efficient heaters.
  • $500,000 to repair and rebuild rooftops, brick walls and stairwells.
  • The VA will also set aside additional funding to evaluate potential for geothermal energy projects at Ft. Harrison. Geothermal energy captures energy from clean, renewable resources like underground hot springs.

The projects will help Ft. Harrison save money on heating and energy costs while promoting clean energy.

“There are many maintenance issues at the VA Medical Center that haven’t made it to the top of the priority list in the past, but the stimulus money helped make these projects possible,” said Joseph Underkofler, Director of VA Montana Healthcare System. “These funds will benefit the veterans by improving the condition of the facility and maintaining an environment fit for quality care. These repairs and mechanical conversions will also result in energy reductions. The projects funded by the stimulus money are labor intensive jobs versus high cost equipment, therefore, will put more people to work.”

The $3.2 million announced today is in addition to the nearly $650 million Montana is already receiving under the Jobs Bill, Baucus and Tester said.
“This is great news for Ft. Harrison and for the Helena community,” said Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. “This money will put folks to work repairing and rebuilding Montana’s only VA hospital for the future. The Jobs Bill is working for Montana and the 100,000 veterans who call Montana home.”

“Smart investments like this are why Max and I voted for the Jobs Bill,” said Tester, who serves on both the Senate Appropriations and Veterans Affairs Committees. “It’s good for Montana because it invests in Montanans. It improves the health care facilities that our veterans depend on.  And it creates good-paying jobs.”

The VA’s regional contracting office will put the projects up for bid, a process that will determine when the projects will begin and how many jobs each project will create.