Chair of County Legislature Prides Himself in Working for Veterans’ Issues County Legislature Prides Itself in Working for Veterans Issues

The Legislature proposed a law that would remove burial fees for veterans.

ANCHOR: Onondaga County has its own cemetery for veterans and their spouses, and Frankie Vernouski says the county legislature is prepared to allow veterans to be buried for free.

FRANKIE: Costs would be covered through a fund from what the county used to charge for veterans’ services over previous decades. Legislator David Knapp says that fund is robust.

KNAPP: That perpetual care fund has grown to the point where we can do it for free from now on, and we’ll run out of space before we run out of money in the fund.

FRANKIE: Legislator Miles Bottrill says this is one way the county is paying veterans back.

BOTTRILL: I think there’s always been somewhat of an effort to always try to do more for our veterans, and this is just certainly an example.

FRANKIE: Both Knapp and Bottrill expect the law to pass unanimously in the legislature tomorrow. Frankie Vernouski, NCC News.

Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)—The War Memorial Arena stands downtown as a sign of gratitude from the county to its veterans. The chair of the county legislature said the legislators  use the hockey arena as inspiration to always fight for veterans’ issues.

“This county has always been good to its veterans,” said Onondaga County Legislator David Knapp. “We’ve had a lot of folks come from this area that have done some great things.”

Knapp said whenever the county’s veterans come forward with an issue, the legislature works to get it solved. He cited the recent renovations to the War Memorial as evidence that the county wants to show its appreciation for the armed forces.

So now Knapp, the only veteran in the county legislature, wanted to take that another step forward. He introduced a law that will be voted on Tuesday that would remove all costs for veterans’ and their spouses’ burials in the Onondaga County Veterans’ Cemetery.

The cemetery is off Howlett Hill Road, just a few minutes west of Onondaga Community College.

The sign marking the entrance to the Loomis Hill Cemetery.
At the memorial cemetery for veterans, the county makes nearly 300 burials each year.
© 2019 Frankie Vernouski

Knapp and Legislator Miles Bottrill are the main co-sponsors of the law.

“Whatever we can do to help along the way,” Bottrill said. “We have the ability, we have the capacity to do that as a county, and we should do it.”

Knapp said the cemetery has a perpetual care fund that has grown from what the county previously charged veterans for their burial services. Those costs varied based on federal assistance to veterans, Knapp said, but were typically close to $500.

The cemetery will run out of space before it runs out of money in the fund, according to Knapp. He said that will be at least ten more years.

“We’re going to refund people who bought a plot ahead but haven’t used it yet,” Knapp said. “We’re going to refund their money, and, like I said going forward, bury everybody else at no charge.”

Bottrill thinks the law will pass unanimously.

The Onondaga County Legislature building.
At the Onondaga County Legislature, Legislator David Knapp said the law currently has more co-sponsors than votes even needed to pass.
© 2019 Frankie Vernouski

“I really don’t see a downside to this,” Bottrill said. “I think it’s something that we should all celebrate.”

Both Knapp and Bottrill also referred to other veterans’ services the county is funding—one being the Veterans’ Legal Clinic at Syracuse University’s Dineen College of Law.

Bottrill was formerly a professor at SU’s law school and worked with the clinic. He said the program helps veterans, at no cost, navigate what can be a complicated system through the VA.

“It provides legal services that allows them, really to make sure that they’re afforded different VA benefits,” Bottrill said. “It would be important for the county to fund that again.”

Bottrill said the program costs $50,000 a year.

But Bottrill said that the county funds these programs because veterans are in everyone’s lives. Bottrill’s father was a veteran.

“Everybody is touched by, in one way or another, by veterans’ issues or a veteran,” Bottrill said.

Reported by
Frankie Vernouski Profile Picture

Frankie Vernouski

I am in my third year at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. In my time at Syracuse, I also work for WAER-FM, WJPZ-FM and the ACC Network. In the summer of 2019, I was with the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod Baseball League. I look forward to joining the Auburn Doubledays in the Washington Nationals organization in 2020.

Other stories by Frankie Vernouski

Related Articles