State lawmakers are interested in helping local veteran posts get necessary capital improvements. A project is now underway to survey more than two dozen posts, to determine their needs and get an idea how much it will cost to fix them.
More than two dozen area veteran posts will undergo an evaluation. Through the American Institute of Architects, work will be done pro bono to review local halls and determine what work is needed.
One of the participating architects is Robert Stark of CJS Architects.
"One of the things we'd like is for all of these posts to have wi-fi, computers and communications so that they can tie together with one another and support one another," Stark said.
Stark, along with State Assemblyman Michael Kearns, visited South Buffalo Post 721 on Wednesday morning. The basement bar and lounge at the post has a nostalgic look, with a blue and white checkered floor, older tables and chairs and a vintage bowling game in the corner of the barroom. The problem, as they observed, is that it can only be accessed by a flight of stairs.
"Many of these facilities aren't handicap-accessible," said Kearns. "They just weren't built that way at the time. Many of them were built in the 1950s or early 1960s. Many of them are not conducive to our returning veterans."
Attracting younger veterans, returning from missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, is one of the goals of this veteran post evaluation project. Updates including wi-fi will also serve older veterans, Kearns noted, as it will give many veterans a means to go online and learn about services available to them.
Besides providing veterans with a place to interact with their peers, Kearns adds that many halls and posts play relevant social and community roles.
"The Matthew Glab Post in Lackawanna was used during last year's storm to move cars there," he said. "It's also used as an emergency response center by the Red Cross."
The visit to South Buffalo Post 721 was the first of ten visits planned by Veterans' Day. Kearns says, in all, 27 area posts have expressed an interest in this evaluation. The remaining posts are expected to be visited by the end of the year.