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Franklin County veterans agencies consider merger

GREENFIELD — If the two boards that represent all veterans who live in Franklin County vote to approve a merger, veterans from throughout the county will soon come to Greenfield for all their services.

Currently, all of the county’s veterans go to either Greenfield or Montague.

Mayor William Martin, who briefed town council leaders Monday night, has been pushing for a consolidation of services for some time, saying county veterans would be better served if everything they need could be found in one place and it would cost less to run one office.

The Greenfield Veterans Resource and Referral Center currently serves more than 1,000 veterans from Greenfield and Leyden and the center in Montague, also known as the Central Franklin County Veterans District, serves several hundred veterans living in the county’s other 24 towns.

Martin said a merger will require a vote of both department’s boards. If they do vote to merge, the state will have the final OK.

“We’d love to see this happen,” said Martin.

Greenfield’s Veterans Agent Tim Niejadlik said both agencies have been talking about merging for at least two to three years.

Mark Fitzpatrick, veterans agent for in Montague, said if the board votes to go ahead with a merger, both the Greenfield and Montague offices will have to dissolve and then form a new district.

Fitzpatrick said if the two merge, staffing will be discussed at that point. He said he plans to retire in a year.

The Greenfield center is located at 294 Main St. in the former Mark E. Salamone law office. That office is currently run by Niejadlik, another full-time employee and some volunteers.

The Montague office is run by Fitzpatrick and Leo Parent, both of whom are retired but still working part-time. Fitzpatrick works four days a week and Parent works two days, one of which is the day Fitzpatrick is off.

Neijadlik said if the veterans centers merge, the new one will continue to help veterans with health care, housing insurance, mental health services, burial benefits, job searches, benefit searches, help for eligible dependents and access to other veterans websites.

It is not yet clear how much it costs each agency to operate each year and how much it will save if they merge.

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