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Operation Veterans hospital proposal gaining support from municipal boards

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Navy veteran Joseph M. Cosentino is putting a lot of miles on his vehicle to spread the word and raise awareness about Operation Veterans, an Ogdensburg-based group with goals to open a veterans hospital and long-term nursing home in the city.

“It’s a shame,” Mr. Cosentino said Wednesday of issues St. Lawrence County’s 9,000-plus veterans currently face, referring to a lack of health care locally, overcrowding at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Syracuse, and the sparsity of jobs available to returning soldiers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Cosentino and fellow vet Frank R. Perretta spoke to both the village and town boards in Morristown, sharing information about Operation Veterans and photographs of Ogdensburg’s Pritchard Pavilion and the former St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, the group’s desired locations for the hospital and nursing home.

“We’re seeking endorsements from municipalities, organizations, businesses and from the public. We’re putting together a package to send off to our political representatives,” Mr. Cosentino said.

Eventually, when municipal resolutions and letters of support are gathered, the collection will be forwarded to U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Rep. William L. Owens, R-Plattsburgh, state Senator Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

Those wishing to write letters of support can mail them to Mr. Cosentino at 612 Lee Road, Ogdensburg, 13669.

Both Morristown boards promised resolutions of support. Mr. Cosentino said the group’s proposal has already garnered the support of Ogdensburg City Council and Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce, the villages of Heuvelton and Waddington and the towns of Lisbon and Waddington.

“Let’s get a hospital right here for our vets in the north country. It will take a lot of work and may not amount to anything, but at least we can say that we tried,” he said. “It’s going to be up to the federal government to work a deal with the state and the city.”

Representatives of Operation Veterans have already toured the state Office of Mental Health-owned Pritchard building, which overlooks the St. Lawrence River on the grounds of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.

“The first floor is in pretty rough shape. They’ve had leaks and the floor tiles are all over the place, but I checked all the walls and didn’t find any cracks,” Mr. Cosentino said. “The second floor was better and the third floor, where doctors used to do all the operating, needs a good washing and is ready to go.”

In the works is a visit to inspect the former St. Joseph’s Home, 420 Lafayette St., currently owned by the cit.

“The exterior is in beautiful shape, but I understand the inside has been partially gutted,” Mr. Cosentino said.

Operation Veterans has organized its next meeting on May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Dobisky Visitors Center, 100 Riverside Ave.

Mr. Cosentino said that all 27 veterans’ organizations in the county are invited to attend, as is the public and county, state, and federal officials.

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