Selectmen Approve Veterans Services District
Selectmen vote unanimously in support of Crossroads Veteran Services District.
Plans to craft a four-town veteran's services district are steaming ahead, with a unanimous vote by Norton selectmen to support the Crossroads Veteran Services District proposal on Thursday.
Foxborough selectmen preceded the Norton vote Tuesday, also voicing a unanimous approval, and Mansfield discussed the proposal several weeks ago, with that board also in support. Easton veterans express disapproval of the proposed four-town veterans services district on Monday.
"This is a good program - a lot of people worked hard to get it to this point," selectman Mary Steele said Thursday. "With four towns committed to this, it has to bring more to the veterans."
Under the regionalization plan, the four towns would share two agents, and each community would have a 20-hour assistant and an office to provide administrative help. The two agents proposed for the shared job are Mansfield agent John Hogan, and Foxborough agent Michael Johns.
Town Manager Michael Yunits, who has been dedicating hours to drafting the proposal, told the board the four towns together would serve about 120 veterans, 42 in Norton, 43 in Easton, 17 in Mansfield and 18 in Foxborough. Under state regulations, towns sharing agents must be contiguous - only when Mansfield expressed interest in joining with Easton and Norton could Foxborough become part of the district, as it shares a border with Mansfield.
Norton had been sharing services with Easton and its agent Stephen Nolan, but Nolan left unexpectedly. Selectmen said Thursday the formation of the regional district would provide some insurance to veterans in all four communities that an agent would always be on hand. Since his departure, Mansfield and Foxborough agents have been assisting.
Foxborough agent Michael Johns attended the Norton board meeting, and said preparations for formation of the district have been hectic.
"We are overwhelmed with work," he said. "We have just been holding back a tidal wave getting ready to put the district in place. We have been going through every claim." Johns said claims have to be investigated and verified so that benefits get to the people who need them. The town pays out benefits, but is later reimbursed for 75 percent of that cost by the government.
Johns said he had enjoyed his time in Norton, had marched in the Veteran's Day parade, and had experienced Norton as "a very Veteran-focused community."
He said he had talked to a man who had protested at the parade and had met with him just that day. He told selectmen if they talked to the same man now, who held a sign at the parade saying "Norton Ignores Vets," they would get a different impression of his feelings.
Board member Robert Kimball said the town will have new young veterans coming home as time progresses. "This is a win/win for the veterans and the town," he said. "We have young people trying to get work, and there's nothing out there. The town could subsidize some of their costs until they get back on their feet. If they couldn't find an agent in Norton, they could drive to one of the other towns - they are all close."