The power plant had a price tag of between $15 million and $20 million

CANANDAIGUA — When the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was building a renewable energy plant at the VA campus in Canandaigua, the plan was that it would save taxpayers a million dollars a year in energy costs.

The Daily Messenger's news partner, News 10NBC says the project is complete but there’s a lot more to the story. After spending millions of tax dollars to build the plant, News 10NBC uncovered, the VA now has no plans to use it.

The 10,000-square-foot brick building on the VA campus in Canandaigua was designed and built to save money. But with a price tag between $15 and $20 million, this power plant has yet to be used. It sits idle — producing no energy and saving zero dollars.

"I had two trailers here that the contractors were working out of," said Chuck Tomes, who lives next to the VA campus and watched as the plant took years to complete.

"It's a lot of money. It's an incredible amount of money and what they were supposed to save on it with fuel costs, and now they're not doing that. It just seems to be more money that they're wasting," added Tomes.

Here's the background:

The project was funded in 2010 as part of the nation's stimulus plan.

The plant was to produce power by burning wood chips to create steam-powered energy otherwise known as a biomass system. But the project ran into repeated delays as the contractor and the government fought over building designs, which led to litigation.

It has taken eight years — which is about the same length of time it took to dig the Erie Canal.

But now the power plant is essentially complete.

So, why aren't they using it?

A peek into the windows shows the plastic is still on the office chairs. A few minutes later and the VA police showed up.

After days of phone calls and emails, News 10NBC finally got a response.

As it turns out, after spending millions of your tax dollars on this power plant, the VA has no plans to fire it up.

In an emailed statement, a VA spokesperson said, "When construction of the project was initiated in 2010, natural gas prices were much higher than they are now, justifying the plant's design to run on biomass. Since then, natural gas prices have dropped, and we are evaluating the options for using the plant moving forward."

Asked about the empty building, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins said, "It is not economically viable."

Collins got involved in trying to resolve the construction delays five years ago. The frustration was clear in his voice.

"It was a waste and a boondoggle," Collins said. "I think they're now admitting it. They're gonna mothball it. Well, I wouldn't even mothball it. Take it apart. If you can get anything, pennies on the dollar for the equipment there, sell it off and just call it a day."

Tomes wonders how the money — some $20 million in tax dollars — could have been used to help veterans.

"We have a suicide call line here that I know they've had to outsource because they have so many calls to it," Tomes said. "Could that money have been turned into the suicide hotline, which could have benefited hundreds of thousands of people?"

The VA did not respond to News 10NBC's requests for specifics about any plans it might be considering for the building, or for an on-camera interview with the director.

Messenger Post Media, along with news partner News 10NBC, will continue to follow this developing story.