by HANNAH BROADBENT
Next Tuesday, September 19, Carver County Veteran Services is holding their ribbon cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. for their new location in Chaska. The service office was originally in Waconia, but moved offices to be in the government center. They have been in their new office for about a week now.
“We realized our office was growing and we didn’t have enough space anymore,” said the Assistant Veterans Service Officer, Paul Thorn. “Our accommodations could not be met in Waconia.”
Thorn said with their growing veterans population privacy was an issue there, the amount of people in the office created too close of quarters. Veterans Service Officer Dan Tengwall said plainly, Waconia was too small and Chaska is creating a welcoming space that is also secure.
“We loved working in Waconia and the people who came in to check on what we’re doing, we hope they keep that up,” Tengwall said. “Moving is a double edged sword, we may lose our connection with the majority of Carver County.”
Tengwall and Thorn said there are many pros and cons to the move. They said Waconia provided a central location for many veterans in the surrounding area. Though now in Chaska, they are in the government center and with unlimited access to other resources and partners their vets may need.
The officers said they frequent the health and human services office as well as the workforce center and the assessor’s office when assisting veterans. Now, they say they can literally walk their vets over to these offices.
“Now we are interconnected with services that run the county, we were further away from that in Waconia,” Thorn said.
They are also excited due to the sheer size in the new location. Tengwall said it is three and a half times larger than the last location, their ability to organize will be made easier and they will have an extra office. Tengwall and Thorn are hoping for another full-time employee, or they will work with the state to fill that space with third party providers. Also in this new office, there are bathrooms located inside.
“I know it sounds crazy, but we didn’t even have handicapable bathrooms in the last location,” Tengwall said.
Tengwall said he knew the move couldn’t happen without balance between cities. He said his biggest fear is that people will be deterred from this location or unable to visit due to mileage. So, the service office has been working with county libraries to establish regional offices. Tengwall said it will also be a benefit to the libraries because it will create more foot traffic. He said it will be a more collaborative effort between those entities.
A large part of Thorn’s job is outreach. He said they did provide a lot of transportation for vets who needed it. Now, they want to try and meet veterans midway and establish a presence within more communities as well.
“We know this move has got to have some give and take and we are going to give as much as we can,” Thorn said.
Thorn said they are in the early stages of planning for these regional appointment sites, but he is hoping this will help with some of the mixed feelings towards the relocation. Tengwall said they are working out the details but it will look something like weekly meetings in Waconia and NYA one day a week, and Watertown as needed.
“I get change is hard and clients loved the ability to step in and say hi – that won’t change and us getting into these communities will be even better,” Tengwall said.
Tengwall said they don’t know how to gauge how often to hold these appointments right now, but they want to have more than needed at first and they can always cut back if it’s too much.
“Vets rely on routine so it’ll be tough, but it’s a matter of time before we provide more for them,” Thorn said.
Thorn said demographics is a large dicator of how they use their resources, and every city is different According to Tengwall 60 percent of their work are special needs claims, so health care, taxes, etc – the majority of that comes from Chaska. Now, they can meet with people in Chaska who didn’t see them as viable resources before.
Tengwall said in Waconia, they worked with the government everyday to help veterans utilize services in the government center. He said they did that as long as they could, now they need to be next to their resources.
“We hope we get busier with the new location, providing services is why we go to work everyday,” Tengwall said.
Thorn said they will reach out to legions in the Chaska area and let them know what they intend to do there as well.
The ribbon cutting takes place at 3 p.m. on Saturday the 19, but Tengwall encourages people to come in any time.
“Come see us and get to know us, get familiar with our new space and grow confidence in our services,” Tengwall said.