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Alcona vet services await state budget passage

HARRISVILLE — Whether or not the Alcona County Veterans Affairs Office will be able to continue offering services full-time depends on the state budget lawmakers are scrambling to finish.

The county’s Veteran Affairs Office earlier this year received a $55,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that allows Tony Atkinson, the office’s director and counselor, to work full-time instead of the part-time hours he used to work, expanding the office’s hours from one day a week to five days a week.

Marie Douville, grant manager with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, on Tuesday told the county Board of Commissioners that legislators would like to see funding remain at its current level, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is proposing a decrease in funding.

Disagreements between the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Democratic governor have stalled the state budget. If they don’t reach a deal by Oct. 1, much of the state government would shut down.

Douville told commissioners employees in her office received notices on Monday they would be laid off in the event of a government shutdown. She said they are currently not in a position to move forward with the fiscal 2020 grant.

“Were really just kind of stuck in status quo at this point,” she said.

The county could also see its share of funding decrease because more counties have submitted letters saying they intend to apply for the grant, which could slice the total pool of money into smaller amounts for each county. Douville said the state has received 61 letters of intent this year, compared to the 42 last year.

Atkinson, the Alcona County VA director, said that, with the increased availability, he sees an average of 65 veterans a month now, compared to 15 when the office was only open one day a week.

County board Chairmain Craig Johnston said the increased availability of the office has been a great asset to the county.

“I hear nothing but good things, everybody is very happy with the increased presence, the increased hours,” he said. “That couldn’t have come without the grant.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

In other business

The Alcona County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday also:

∫ agreed to allow the county Sheriff’s Office to enter into an agreement with Ford Financial for the 2020 fiscal year, beginning on Jan. 1, for two police vehicles. Undersheriff Keith Meyers said each vehicle will cost the department about $33,500, plus $3,600 for the vehicles to come “road ready.”