Federal budget includes $36 million for WNY Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 September 2016 at 1:56 pm

PEMBROKE – Orleans County veterans and their spouses are about two years away from being able to use a new national cemetery, said Earl Schmidt, director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County.

He is pleased by Thursday’s announcement by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer that the House and Senate have approved an appropriations bill that includes $36 million for the National Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama soon. The funding provides for construction of a 132-acre cemetery in Pembroke.

Schmidt said the cemetery will be a close option for veterans and their families. The closest National Veterans’ Cemetery is in Bath.

“It’s a huge cost saver for veterans,” Schmidt said. “You’re maintained, secured and honored every day.”

The cemetery provides free markers, burials and ongoing maintenance to veterans and their spouses.

Schumer said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is currently completing its planning and design phases and is set to wrap up the Environmental Review process by the end of November. However, federal funding for the next phase – the construction phase expected to start in 2017 – had not yet been determined until Schumer intervened. Schumer successfully included the $36 million in the appropriations bill passed by both the House and the Senate, and it is now poised to be signed into law.

“The inclusion of this critical $36 million in federal funding into the final appropriations means the newest Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke is finally set to become a reality,” Schumer said in a statement on Thursday. “I am confident this will be signed into law by the President expeditiously – because our local veterans and community leaders in Western New York and the Rochester-Finger Lakes region have worked too long and too hard to help make this cemetery a reality to watch it stall in the construction phase.”

The 132- acre site on Indian Falls Road in Pembroke is located approximately 30 miles from Buffalo and 48 miles from Rochester.  The cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 96,000 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York, Schemer said.

According to guidance provided by the VA on cemetery development timelines, it can typically take up to 24 months to complete the cemetery master planning and design process.  Following the completion of that phase, the construction phase typically requires 24-30 months to compete, with early-use burial areas made available approximately 12 months after the start of construction.

Now that the $36 million to fund the construction is secure, the VA anticipates it will begin solicitation of a General Contractor to award construction.  Solicitation and contract award is anticipated to require approximately 6 months, Schumer’s Office said.

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