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BATAVIA – Genesee County veterans are up in arms over the relocation of the Veterans Service Agency from a site downtown to a county office building two miles away in the Town of Batavia.
James Neider, chairman of the county’s Joint Veterans Council, consisting of 11 veterans posts, said the office was moved to cramped quarters last summer despite protests from veterans.
The agency’s new director, William R. Joyce, has been in office less than two months and now shares a waiting room with the Department of Social Services.
Joyce no longer has a secretary, a post eliminated with a retirement to cut costs. He must now rely on three DSS clerks who are handling welfare issues and issuing food stamps.
Neider says the result of the cost-cutting is an insult to veterans who for years visited then-Veteran Service Director Hal Kreter or his secretary in the downtown Senior Center.
“The county is using veterans as a cash cow to feed DSS and the general fund,” Neider said.
County Manager Jay A. Gsell defended the move. While acknowledging the concerns of veterans, he said, “We are trying to be responsible to the budget,” since expenditures for the agency would come from the a strapped general fund.
One possible solution is to move the agency back to County Building No. 1 in downtown Batavia, its original site, where space is available.
The county has about 3,500 veterans of World War II and four subsequent conflicts.
Joyce, the new director, served with the Army in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.