USVEI threatens to sue hospital

Dennis Butts, chairman of the U.S. Veterans Educational Institute, told the Mirror Thursday he plans to file suit against UPMC Altoona for refusing to return USVEI’s $50,000 deposit, which secured an option for USVEI to buy the mostly vacant former Bon Secours-Holy Family Hospital property.

Butts on Monday had offered to buy the property for $2.5 million, three days after a twice-extended option expired, but with payment postponed until May 12 to give him time to raise the money for the purchase and renovation of the buildings through a naming rights deal.

The hospital turned down that offer and put the hospital back on the market – though without ruling out an eventual purchase by Butts. The deposit was nonrefundable under any circumstances, hospital spokesman Dave Cuzzolina said.

USVEI couldn’t begin negotiating for naming rights earlier, because it had to resolve a variety of issues uncovered during its title search and then because of the need to clean up and certify the removal of mold it found, Butts said.

Asked to respond to the threat of a lawsuit over the deposit, Cuzzolina said, “We are unaware of any lawsuit being filed and wouldn’t comment on pending litigation anyway.”

Cuzzolina added: “We support projects to help our veterans and will be glad to sell the property to Mr. Butts, if and when he has the money.”

Butts was hoping that a naming rights deal would provide $20 million, with $10 million upfront.

USVEI plans to go forward with its project, which includes college courses taught by Clarion University, a dorm for the students, a technology development lab, a crisis-backup data center for federal agencies – all of which were planned for the Bon Secours location. It also includes a corporate deployment force, a search and rescue team and a program to help homeless female veterans stabilize their lives. The former Ramada Inn would replace Bon Secours as the education center, while remaining a dorm for the deployment force.