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Committee okays new VA building

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday approved a bill that spends $24-million to construct a regional office building at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines. The building would house offices providing veterans' loans, counseling and other services now found at the William C. Cramer federal office building at 144 First Ave S in St. Petersburg. The new building is scheduled to be completed by August 1995.

VA officials requested the money, saying they want to set up a "one-stop service" for veterans who use Bay Pines hospital. But the move angered St. Petersburg city officials, who say the relocation would draw 650 jobs and a $19-million annual payroll from the struggling downtown.

Harry Glenn, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. C.

W. Bill Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, says the vacant downtown space likely will be filled by some other federal agency that is renting offices elsewhere.

In addition to the 157,365-square-foot building, the appropriations bill also pays for construction of 530 parking spots. The project is part of an appropriations bill that still must be passed by the full House and the Senate.

The bill also includes $6.3-million for design work on a clinical addition and parking garage at the VA Medical Center in Tampa. The Tampa project is to cost $82-million and would be completed in 1997 if approved by Congress, the VA says.