ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The new Veterans Affairs Center in Lake Nona is still months from opening, but plans are in the works try and keep the existing facility in Baldwin Park open.
Channel 9's Racquel Asa learned that a central Florida congressman and others are hoping to keep the Baldwin Park center as a satellite facility.
Currently it serves as the main VA campus for six central Florida counties.
Officials said that around 96,000 veterans use the facility each year.
U.S. Rep. John Mica stopped short of telling the VA what should go in the Baldwin Park facility once the new center in Lake Nona opens.
He said the decision needs to be made now to keep some services in Baldwin Park because Washington lawmakers are in the middle of their budget process.
Right now, no veteran services will be offered at the Baldwin Park facility once the Lake Nona facility opens. Mica said some services should still be offered there.
"We're not telling the VA what to use these for but we believe the needs are there for our veterans," said Mica.
Navy veteran Thomas Bell said closing the Baldwin Park
facility would complicate things for him and for other veterans he know.
"I'm familiar with the layout of it and I know my doctors which I come to see," said Bell. "I wouldn't want to see this facility close."
The VA representative said that the decision on what will be done with the facility is up to the those in Washington, D.C.
Mica said decisions need to be made because some services are already moving down to the new Lake Nona facility and valuable space is sitting unused.
"So we're asking the secretary of the Veterans Administration to make a decision on what is the fate of these structures behind me and make certain that this empty space be put to good use for our veterans," Mica said as he stood outside the Baldwin Park facility.
According to a VA representative, there is no timeline on when a decision might be made.
The Lake Nona facility is scheduled to open by the end of the year.