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Watertown Veterans Press Town Council to Hire Vets Agent

The town has not had a veterans agent since Bob Erickson retired in October. Town is interviewing replacements.

Watertown's veterans filled the Town Council Chamber Wednesday night and demanded that the town hire a replacement for Veterans Agent Bob Erickson, who retired at the end of October.

Town Manager Michael Driscoll told the veterans that the town is working on hiring a veterans agent.

Erickson told the Town Council they are violating state law that requires communities with over 12,000 residents to have a full-time veterans agent, plus the town's veterans are not receiving the services they deserve.

"There are many services: financial, medical with the VA, education, housing," Erickson said. "There are veterans coming back from Iraq and there is no one here to help them."

Veteran Steve Felton said Erickson helped a woman back from Iraq who needed to find housing.

"We helped a woman with a child back from Iraq find housing," Felton said. "She didn't have a bed for the child, so we got her a bed."

The Marine Corps League can provide help to veterans, said Rick Morrell, commandant of the Marine Corps League Shutt Detachment, but someone needs to let them know about those who need help, he told the Town Council.

"I wouldn't want to be in your shoes if there is a veteran in Waterown in need and no one knows about it," Morrell said.

There are over 1,000 veterans in Watertown, according to the last census, Erickson said, and if when including spouses and children he estimated there are several thousand residents receiving services.

The town has explored becoming part of a veterans services district. Veteran Joe Caouette said he does not like that idea.

"I heard rumors that three towns would share a veterans agent – Newton, Watertown and Belmont," Caouette said. "That is not acceptable. It is against the law. This is more than a 40 hour a week job."

Driscoll said that he has spoken to people in towns that are part of a veterans agent district to find out about their experiences.

He added that the town would not move to be part of a district if it hurts the services provided to veterans.

"We are moving forward with hiring a full time veterans services officer," Driscoll said. "We also want to keep our options open for the creation of a veterans services district."

A district may be a way to provide back up to the veterans agent, Driscoll said. When Erickson was working, he was the only person in the Veterans Services Office.

Before any move toward becoming part of a district, Driscoll promised the veterans he would meet with the Watertown Veterans Council.

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