After their shared part-time veterans’ services officer announced her retirement, the towns of Cheshire, Dalton and Lanesborough reached an agreement to join a regional veterans’ services district run by North Adams that will improve availability for veterans with only marginal increases in costs.

In 2010, North Adams entered into an intermunicipal agreement to share Veterans’ Services Officer Stephen Roy with Adams and Williamstown, later expanding to include Clarksburg, Savoy and Florida, serving anywhere from 140 to 180 veterans annually in those towns. With the expansion, the communities added a veterans office assistant to help Roy.

With three additional communities joining the district, Roy will split his time among four offices – 20.5 hours in North Adams, seven hours in Adams, five in Williamstown and five in Dalton, with each community paying a percentage of the district’s costs based on its proportion of office hours.

For the five communities without office hours, each will pay a cost based on the average number of veterans’ services claims of the four highest months in the preceding calendar year. Up to 10 claims results in a town payment of $1,500 to the district, 11 to 15 claims costs $3,000, and 16 to 20 claims costs $5,000. A community with more than 20 claims requires office hours.

Office assistant Tina Samson, who mainly staffs the North Adams office, can be reached by phone during regular hours for information, but can be assigned to another office on a case-by-case basis, according to North Adams Chief Administrative Officer Mike Canales.

“It allows us to have a very professional office service for north county veterans, making sure they get the benefits they deserve,” Canales said. “Especially for the small towns that are trying to fund the position, a lot of times they end up with whomever they can get to help them. It can be quite difficult for them to find somebody that can definitely meet their needs.”

Lanesborough Town Manager Paul Sieloff said his town usually has only three or four veterans that need services. He wanted to join the North Adams group previously, but communities in a veterans’ services district are required to be contiguous so veterans don’t have to travel far when they need in-person assistance.

“It’s really important you have someone who is skilled, knows all the programs and the process of reimbursement,” Sieloff said. “This is a rare opportunity to do a good agreement that will improve service, give us high quality services, and make it sustainable going forward.”

Dalton Town Manager Ken Walto said the agreement will cost his town about $3,000 more than it was previously spending on veterans’ services with a part-time officer, but coverage will improve from one day a week to every weekday, while maintaining office hours in town one day a week.

“We’re getting professional, well-trained help, and we’re expanding our services from one day to five days,” Walto said.

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