Board seeks to expand veteran office hours

HARRISVILLE — Alcona County officials will examine what resources it would take to expand the office hours at the Alcona County Veterans Affairs office.

Veteran’s Service Officer Tony Atkinson discussed the need for expanded services Wednesday during an Alcona County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“I have been collecting data on veterans coming into the office, and I presented that to our veterans board yesterday. They concluded that there is a need for it and they voted that they wanted the office hours from one day a week to three days a week,” Atkinson said.

He told commissioners there was an incentive grant that is available to pay for the expansion, but said that the office would have to have someone on staff for at least 1,000 hours a year.

Atkinson said he looked over the grant opportunity with the county prosecutor, who said that it was viable. He said, however, that the personnel would have to meet the minimum working hours, be certified as a veterans officer with more training and be in good standing with some veterans organizations.

After presenting to the board Chairman Craig Johnston said the proposal should run through the county’s finance and also the personnel committee to see if it was viable.

Commissioner Carolyn Brummund asked in what configuration the expanded hours at the office would be. Atkinson said he was unsure.

Johnston noted that there was a grant that could be used to help pay for the expansion but noted the expanded funds were not ongoing.

According to Atkinson that funding is in the form of a two-year grant that pays $10,000 a year to expand a part-time accredited officer.

“We’re not even in compliance with the part-time requirements, without obeying these we can’t get the grants once we fix the mandatory requirements then we can apply for grants, do other things,” he said.

Atkinson said there is a need for more coverage hours in the county for veterans. He said according to a recent report there were 1,600 veterans in the county with only seven hours of contact from the VA office for those individuals.

He said in Alpena County, by comparison has 3,000 veterans and two full-time employees that provide 80 hours of service.

Johnston told Atkinson that he would have the finance and the personnel committees look into the issue and provide a report during the next county meeting.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693.