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Smith County Veterans Services office in downtown Tyler. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Smith County officials are looking at becoming involved with a new regional veterans campus on Front Street called CampV.

The campus, which is run by a nonprofit organization and is scheduled to open in November, is seeking to become a one-stop shop for veterans in East Texas.

In December, stakeholders in CampV asked the Smith County Commissioners Court to relocate the county’s Veterans Service Office from East Ferguson Street to the new campus on Chandler Highway and pay rent to fund the project.

At a kickoff event in May, nine organizations including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Andrews Center had committed to being on the campus. At the time, the Commissioners Court had not yet decided whether to participate.

At a Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said he would like to have one existing employee from the Veterans Services Office located on the new campus, and pay rent of about $10,000 per year.

“My thought was, let’s have a physical presence out there every day,” Moran said. Alternatively, he said the county could place one employee on the campus two or three days a week, depending on what is needed.

“A lot of veterans currently know where our physical location is here, and so we certainly would not want to move the whole office overnight,” Moran said. He said this could be the beginning of a natural transition of the Veterans Services Office.

“As a natural transition over a number of years, if that’s where it grew to, and we saw that’s where the need was, then our goal is to meet the needs of the veterans,” Moran said.

“And if it makes financial sense and if it makes service sense, value to the citizens, but right now there’s no plan to see that,” he said. “We’re going to see how naturally it all pans out.”

Commissioner Jeff Warr pointed to the department’s 2013 move to the existing Veterans Service Office on East Ferguson Street from the Cotton Belt Building on Front Street.

“As this takes hold, a future court may evaluate the services may be better served out there,” Warr said. “It was disruptive when we moved from the Cotton Belt out here, so I think transitioning in is a good idea because people are used to coming here now.”

Commissioner Terry Phillips said he was impressed with the project when he visited the campus in May, and that the price tag on Moran’s proposal is a small price to pay to serve veterans.

Bob Turner, who sits on the advisory board for CampV, spoke to the Commissioners Court about the project. He said the intention is to increase convenience for veterans, not cause confusion.

“We want to be that place where if you don’t know where else to go, come here,” Turner said. “And if we need to get you back to the county, we’ll get you back to the county.”

The Commissioners Court did not take a vote on the issue, but Moran said he is proposing to earmark about $10,000 in the fiscal year 2020 budget, which begins Oct. 1, to pay rent at the facility.

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