Kezer and Hunt both indicated that if the change is made, a second full-time staff member would be hired to help cover the five communities, and a team of assistants would be brought on to support them.
“It will benefit all of the veterans in the area in a better way because it means we’ll be able to hire an additional person and that would give better contact to the veterans, they’ll have more personal time with people than they may have had in the past,” Hunt said. “That’s the goal, to make the services better. It also could be more economical for some of the communities involved.”
Salisbury has also entered into preliminary discussions regarding regionalizing veterans services, according to Town Manager Neil Harrington.
“There is an option under the law to set up regional veterans services collaboratives, but due to a quirk in the law, only one city at a time can be included in such a grouping,” Harrington told selectmen at their recent meeting. “We are looking at having all five communities file a home rule petition to allow us to join together to pool our resources and continue to provide first rate services to our veterans at a more economical cost.
Harrington plans to offer Town Meeting the option of approving such a home rule petition, he said.
Currently, Salisbury only has a part time person helping veterans. If approved, the collaborative would be able to offer veterans a full time director, as well.
Hunt added that veterans living in Newburyport, Merrimac and Newbury likely wouldn’t see much of a change in service under those conditions, and if anything their services would increase.
Hunt, who is himself a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Navy from 1965-70, has served as Newburyport’s Veterans’ Services director since September of 2007, and his office helps veterans file claims, obtain benefits, enroll in health care and work through any number of the physical, mental and emotional issues that veterans can face.