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PORTSMOUTH -- Brick by brick, the face of the Portsmouth skyline will change as work crews start replacing the exterior of Building 3 of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

The tan bricks that have covered the 18-story structure for more than 50 years will be replaced by red bricks so all the buildings in the hospital complex match.

The cost of the project to taxpayers is more than $33 million. Commander Dave Collins insists the project isn't just about matching all of the bricks. The structure itself has a number of issues.

'We've had a long-standing issue with water infiltration problems,' he says.

Collins says the roof leaks and needs to be replaced; water is getting in through some of the windows.

The Navy says it spends more than $100,000 a year to repair the water damage and the leaks can't fixed without replacing all of the bricks, easily more than a million of them.

'The root cause of the problem is what we call the building envelope, issues that have been going on here for 15 to 20 years,' Collins says.

Critics wonder why the Navy didn't fix the building sooner and question doing the work in this tough economy.

A person who e-mailed 13News called Medical Center Portsmouth an example of government waste that goes back decades, declaring 'the oldest, historical building is being redone because it was not done correctly to historical specifics the first time. Such waste and poor management.'

Project contractors agree the exterior of the building has been sub-standard since it was built in 1960.

But is every brick bad? Can none be saved at some savings to taxpayers?

Some people question spending tens of millions to fix leaks; others aren't sure what to make of the project and its price tag; others say why not do it now since it will give people work for a while.

The project will create about 100 jobs and that's good for the economy.

As for the cost, some people question the government's priorities, wondering how Washington find $33 million to re-brick a hospital and yet have no funds to help to victims of the April tornadoes in Gloucester.

To see the bid dispute, click here.

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