BILOXI — Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced six contracts have been awarded worth $153.7 million to build new healthcare facilities and expand existing services that provide care to veterans in the Biloxi area.
The projects, which include an addition to the medical center, new mental health facility, blind rehabilitation center, extended-care facility, parking garage and utility upgrades, are the result of a department-wide reorganization of VA’s healthcare resources and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The most recent contracts include construction of a four-story clinical addition to the Biloxi VA Medical Center and a new 26-bed rehabilitation facility to train sight-impaired veterans in the skills for independent living.
The addition will be connected to the existing hospital and provide space for outpatient surgery, a step-down unit, as well as primary and specialty care clinics. The $36.6-million contract was awarded to Hoar Construction of Birmingham, Ala., and was part of an earlier plan to consolidate Gulfport services with Biloxi.
The rehabilitation unit is a stand-alone facility to be built on the Biloxi campus by Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, also of Birmingham, at a cost of $14 million. Plans include separate space for training veterans in skills needed for independent living.
A new parking garage, surface parking and the associated site work to improve access to the Biloxi campus and its new buildings and services are being constructed under a $12.4-million contract awarded to EASC/LS, a joint venture from Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Sustainable design components for the nearly 98,000-square-foot facility include using recovered materials, reducing waste and improving energy efficiency. The architectural design of the building is intended to preserve the historic beauty of the Biloxi campus. The anticipated completion date for construction of the new mental health facility is June 2011.
A separate project will improve the campus infrastructure to support the new additions, including expansion of the chilled water and steam plants and their distribution systems and upgrading the electrical system. Whitesell-Green Inc./Batten & Shaw Inc. from Pensacola, Fla., will perform the work under an $18.7-million contract.
Unemployment claims rise
In the week ending Aug. 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims in the U.S. was 558,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised figure. The four-week moving average was 565,000, an increase of 8,500 from the previous week’s revised average.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 4.7 percent for the week ending Aug. 1, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s revised rate.
The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Aug. 1 was 6.202 million, a decrease of 141,000 from the preceding week’s revised level. The four-week moving average was approximately 6.259 million, a decrease of 27,750 from the preceding week’s revised average.
The fiscal year-to-date average for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for all programs is 5.548 million.