WILBRAHAM – The town is examining several options to adopt a state mandated full-time veterans’ service officer (VSO), including creating a new veterans’ service district with either Longmeadow or Ludlow.
The town’s VSO Richard Pronchnow plans to retire after 28 years in a part-time position, which was grandfathered from a Massachusetts state law requiring the town to hire a full time veterans’ agent. With Pronchnow retiring in December, the town would need to comply with the law.
Town Administrator Nick Breault stated in a memorandum to the Board of Selectmen, which listed the four options available to the town, that the part-time VSO position is 10 to 15 hours per week with a hourly rate o $11.89 for 15 hours per week. The job’s annual salary is approximately $9,300.
The first option would be to hire a dedicated veterans’ service officer for the town.
“If the next VSO worked 21 hours per week at $11.89, the annual pay would be $13,034,” Breault explained.
He added the state has indicated that full-time hours are determined by municipalities.
Breault used the $11.89 per hour figure as a minimum threshold example for full-time hours, but stated the selectmen should consider how many hours qualifies as full-time for a VSO.
He added if the selectmen chose to make the position $19.84 an hour for 21 hours per week, the annual pay would be $21,748. If the position were 35 hours per week for the same amount per hour, the yearly salary would be $36,247.
Recently, Longmeadow Veterans’ Agent Paul Seifert resigned to take a similar position in Springfield and the community began advertising for the position at $19.84 an hour for 21 hours per week.
Breault said the cost to form a district with Longmeadow would be approximately $26,477 per year.
“I’ve had discussions with Town Administrator Nick Breault about establishing a district,” Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane told Reminder Publications. “He is discussing with the Department of Veterans Services at the state. We have received a handful of applications for our position, so I will continue with the screening process for the Longmeadow position. I would say that this discussion with Wilbraham fits into that category of evaluating positions as they open.”
The second option – creating a veterans’ service district with Ludlow – could cost Wilbraham approximately $35,416.
“The Ludlow VSO is an exempt employee who works 35 to 40 hours per week,” Breault stated in the memorandum. “As with any two-town proposal, how to account for the clerical salary, the management of the VSO, allocation of hours, etc., would need to be negotiated. Ludlow seems interested. Their VSO was named ‘Outstanding VSO of the Year’ at the state VSO meeting this past week.”
State approval would be needed for the town were to create or join a veterans’ service district, which could take about a month, he noted.
It would cost the town a range from $21,687 to $25,644 to join the Eastern Hampden County Veterans’ Service District (EHCVSD), which is comprises Hampden, Monson, Wales, and East Longmeadow, Breault said.
“The question about whether or not set hours could be scheduled in Wilbraham is one the EHCVSD would need to decide,” he added. “Wilbraham would get one vote on the EHCVSD as part of managing the district.”
Benefits such as health insurance, professional development, and phone bills are already include within the EHCVSD budget, he noted.
Estimates for joining with Longmeadow only include health insurance, the estimate for Ludlow is based on the present actual value of health insurance and professional development, and the estimates for a dedicated Wilbraham VSO did not include the cost of benefits, Breault said.
Board of Selectmen Chair Robert Boilard said he anticipates the board voting on the issue at its Nov. 16 meeting.
He added that he believes an agreement with the EHCVSD would not benefit Wilbraham veterans due to the amount of time the VSO would spend in the town.