After years of indecision, it's time to put the construction of a new veterans' cemetery in Western New York on the fast track and Genesee County is the perfect place to build it, said Sen. Charles Schumer today at a press conference inside Batavia's American Legion Hall.
Schumer called on Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs, to set a hard and fast deadline for construction to begin and to appoint a regional ombudsman to move the process along.
"The purpose is twofold -- to get it done quickly and to have local input from our veterans' groups," Schumer said.
There are 200,000 veterans in Western New York -- representing a proud tradition of service, said Schumer -- and they and their families deserve a cemetery closer than Bath, which is more than an hour from Batavia.
"Families shouldn't have to drive 75 miles to see a loved ones simply because you want to give them a proper burial in a veterans' cemetery," Schumer said.
"If you looked at all the veterans in Western New York and dropped pins on a map, and you had to find the middle, it would be here, in Genesee County."
In January, the Veterans Administration announced it had narrowed its range of possible locations to the Batavia area. The VA is looking for a suitable 200-acre location and a willing seller.
Schumer said the role of the ombudsman will be to act as a liaison between the local veterans' groups and the VA, enabling the groups to make one or two site selection recommendations to the VA and then moving the process along quickly.
The ombudsman should be someone all of the veterans' groups respect and can work with, Schumer said.
"I will bird-dog this until we make sure a veterans' cemetery is built."