Please join Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, County Clerk Dennis Sant, Deputy County Clerk Michael Bartolotti, Office for the Aging Director Pat Sheehy, Director of Veterans Service Agency Karl Rohde and Transportation Task Force Chairperson Vincent Tamagna at 9:30 a.m. July 26, at the County Transit Garage, 841 Fair St., Carmel, N.Y., as they gather for a press conference to announce the creation of a new transportation effort for Putnam veterans.
Thanks to the joint efforts made by several county agencies and the transportation task force (TTF), Putnam veterans will now have more flexibility in using a special handicapped accessible van originally obtained by the Office for Aging and used to transport the veterans to their medical appointments at the Montrose and Castle Point facilities.
“We are constantly looking for better ways to provide services for our veterans,” said Odell. “A more fluid and flexible means of transportation to and from their medical appointments is clearly something they deserve.”
The transfer of the Veteran’s Van from OFA to the county was the TTF’s recommendation No. 17.
“The transportation task force, in compiling their 26 recommendations for improving and updating the county’s transportation system, found that while the office for aging had the handicapped accessible van, it had limited resources as to the hours of operation and number of drivers available,” Tamagna said. “In discussing this situation, the task force made a recommendation that the county take over the operation of the van as our First Transit dispatch office is open from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and we have more drivers available than OFA.”
The Veteran’s Van was received by the OFA last fall. It was purchased with funding from the Putnam County capital funds. At that time the office for the aging assisted the department of veteran’s affairs with the scheduling and day to day operations of the van.
“As its popularity began to develop, it became clear that it would be better managed by the county transit department as they have the ability to operate longer hours,” Sheehy said. “We were happy to assist in getting this important service up and operating and are pleased that the service will be able to be expanded even further with the transfer of the van.”
Rohde, too, was pleased that the county could step up and improve the valuable service to its veterans.
“We at the service agency are excited that the operation and dispatch of the Veterans Van is going to be moved,” he said. “This new plan gives our veterans more flexible access to the van. This is definitely a home run for the veterans of our community.”
Contacting all of Putnam’s veterans became the next issue so another joint effort was made, this time with Tamagna, the county clerk’s office through their Return the F.A.V.O.R. program (RTF), the veterans service agency and the county’s planning department. Compiling the present day list of almost 5,000 known veterans residing in Putnam was accomplished by combining the 1,000 names registered with the RTF program and by gathering approximately 3,600 additional names from town assessors who scanned their tax rolls for residents claiming veteran exemptions.
Sant introduced the Return the F.A.V.O.R. (Find & Assist Vets of Record) in 2010.
“The program finds and assists veterans of record and gives us the opportunity to inform them of veteran services not only within Putnam but also through the state and the Federal government as well,” Bartolotti said.
To be eligible for the RTF discounts, veterans must file their military discharge papers (DD214 form) with the county clerk’s office. They are then issued a Putnam County ID card enabling them to enjoy special discounts offered by local merchants.
“This is a golden opportunity for us to reach more veterans and get them signed up for the F.A.V.O.R program,” Bartolotti said. “We have added our list of vets already signed up for the F.A.V.O.R. program to the list Vinny and Karl compiled. That list goes to planning, so when a veteran does call for a ride, they will know he or she is registered.”
“We want to reach all of our veterans because we want to provide them with all the services they deserve,” Tamagna said. “They served us. Now it is our turn to give back to them.”