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Should Westborough Join Veterans Services District?

Malloy recommends joining Shrewsbury, Grafton and Northborough to 'fully comply' with a state law.

Westborough should join the veterans services district being discussed by Shrewsbury, Northborough and Grafton, Town Manager Jim Malloy recommended to selectmen Tuesday night.

Attorney General Martha Coakley wants communities to “fully comply” with the state law requiring “every community over 12,000 to have a full-time veterans agent,” Malloy said.

Communities in veterans services districts share a full-time veterans agent.

“Westborough, even though we have two part-time veterans agents, doesn’t really comply with the law,” Malloy said.

Selectmen Denny Drewry and Timothy Dodd said they’d like to discuss the idea further.

“I support the concept. But to rush to make a decision that doesn’t have to be made for several months, in my humble opinion, we should not do that,” Drewry said. The three towns’ veterans agent is leaving in June, he noted.

Chairman Leigh Emery suggested Drewry work with Malloy on the process he’d like to see Westborough officials follow.

Meanwhile, Dodd said he supports “exploring regionalization.” Massachusetts has more than 21 veterans services districts, he said.

Dodd said that in his experience, there are “a few districts that have been formed where different groups of veterans have felt that the service quality has changed.”

Dodd suggested having a meeting with Westborough’s veterans, or doing informal outreach to them, “so that they understand what this change” means.

Westborough has done “a phenomenal job of providing services to veterans, and I want them to be on board,” he said.

Malloy said Shrewsbury, Northborough and Grafton officials reached out to Westborough, and several meetings were held.

Malloy said he and Assistant Town Manager Kristi Williams have met with Veterans Agent/Director of Veterans Services George Perry III “to talk about how he would see it working, and whether he was supportive of it or not.” Westborough’s department of veterans services is served by Perry and Assistant Veterans Agent Kenneth Ferrera.

Perry feels that “at some point in time,” state officials will look at Westborough, and the town will be “having to hire a full-time veterans agent,” Malloy said.

Sharing a veterans agent would cost Westborough “slightly less” than the current department funding, he said.

Westborough would continue offering 80 office hours a month here, but Westborough veterans could also visit the agent in Shrewsbury, Grafton and Northborough, any of which “might actually closer” to the resident’s home, Malloy said. 

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