TO: Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General
Office of Contract Review (55)
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
CC: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar
Dear Office of Inspector General and Office of Contract Review,
Please consider this a formal request to review the VA’s efforts to utilize wind turbines through investment of public funds from the 2009 economic stimulus act.
As an exhaustive Sept. 2 Times news report showed, the VA has spent more than $3.7 million the past five years on private contracts that were supposed to result in operational wind turbines at four VA sites nationwide.
Only one of the four sites – the Massachusetts National Cemetery – has a working turbine. And as the news report stated, the 50-kilowatt turbine works quite well, producing twice as much power as expected after investing about $624,500.
Unfortunately, the turbine at St. Cloud VA Health Care System stands at the other end of the results spectrum. September marked 13 straight months of the 600-kilowatt turbine not working.
Building – and trying to fix – the turbine already has cost taxpayers about $2.3 million, 99 percent of which the VA has paid to the private contractors responsible. And please note that does not include more than $325,000 the VA has not accrued in energy savings since the turbine went online in April 2011.
In other words, this project alone has cost taxpayers more than $2.6 million. It still does not work, nor have any funds expended been recovered.
Remember, though, there are two others – in Salt Lake City, Utah, and New York – that combined to spend almost $1 million on turbines built by contractors only to scuttle both projects before they could even be completed.
But here’s what makes the St. Cloud project even worse.
Towering 160 feet above one of the busiest stretches of highway in Central Minnesota, the turbine looms as a daily reminder to tens of thousands of Minnesotans about government ineptitude. (Private turbines spin daily across the state.)
For starters, that’s not really fair to the St. Cloud VA campus. Other stimulus dollars spent there have helped improve the campus and move it toward the president’s goal.
More importantly, amid the VA’s national scandal involving failure to care for veterans and fraudulent scheduling practices, the leaders of the St. Cloud campus have been extremely forthright in sharing information that shows they are doing all they can to help veterans of all generations.
However, when this board asks them about the turbine, the response clearly indicates they have little control over fixing the turbine – not to mention minimizing the damage it’s doing to their reputation. Instead, they stress decisions are being made at higher levels.
So we’re asking your Office of Contract Review to get involved at those levels. The office’s main purpose is to review vendors’ proposals and contracts to ensure contractors comply with all terms and conditions of the contract.
As that Times news report showed – and as Central Minnesota sees daily – these three turbine projects have cost taxpayers more than $3.7 million, yet that money is not producing any power. At the least, hold the appropriate contractors accountable.
The St. Cloud Times Editorial Board
THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Our View represents the Times Editorial Board, whose members seek to provide opinion, information and leadership that promote public discussion and build a better community.
Melinda Vonderahe, President and publisher
John Bodette, Executive editor
Randy Krebs, Opinion page editor
Paul Bugbee, Community representative
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding