Carroll County Board moves toward compromise with veterans group

MOUNT CARROLL – When the Carroll County Board moved into budget discussions at its meeting Thursday, board member Paul Hartman moved to establish a levy that would bring $44,800 to the county’s Veteran’s Assistance Commission.

Board member Cheryl Cole voiced her concerns with the proposed levy, saying she still has issues with the VAC asking for more money while not spending funds previously allocated.

“They still haven’t handed out all the money to help the veterans,” she said. “They call them repeat offenders and losers, but the money is there to help and they haven’t even handed it all out, and they keep saying they need more funds to help them.”

She repeated her earlier remarks regarding the number of employees required to operate the commission.

“In the beginning, it was designed for one person,” Cole said. “Then, all of a sudden the earlier superintendent had another person come in to help with the office and he was paying her out of his own pocket. Now the superintendent insists he needs two people.

“He says he has places to go and people to see, but I think he needs to set office and outside appointment hours and stick to them.”

Cole said better organization would result in higher efficiency, reducing the time and money spent on training, travel and wages.

“If the VAC were going to give all the $44,000 to the veterans I would be all for it, but I don’t think they need a second employee,” she said. “Many larger veterans assistance organizations operate with one employee; why do we need two?”

Board member Joseph Payette spoke to the difficulties faced by the board in defining the VACs’ responsibilities.

“Since we cannot come to a consensus between the board and the VAC, I’m wondering if a third party, a judge, making a ruling might be beneficial to all of us,” he said. “That decision is going to affect the County Board’s budgeting for a long time. So, we have that to look forward to; that we would, if we go to court, have a third party telling us a clear understanding of how we are going to do our job.”

Payette said he has concerns with going to court because Carroll County has a less than stellar record with lawsuits.

“If we can come to a consensus here, maybe that is better than letting a judge tell us something that we would be fearful of,” he said.

Payette then suggested the board consider establishing a levy funding its VAC. He said he thinks it is the County Board’s responsibility to decide how the VAC does its work.

“I think it is our responsibility, based on my interpretation of what the law is, and thereby the budget reflects what we think they need to be doing,” Payette said. “Their board thinks otherwise, so in this case, I’m leaning toward letting a judge tell us. If we lose, we are pretty much in the flow of how we’ve done previous lawsuits, but at least we get a clarification of how it is done.”

He said if the Hartman motion establishing a levy using the amount the board had already been allocated in its budget discussions he would support it.

“But, to give another ten grand because that may prevent the lawsuit from proceeding and free up our personnel from handling checks and all that I think is a lot” Payette said. “I think our original premise that one person could do 16 hours of work, and fit the requirements of the VAC and its responsibilities to the county should stand.”

A roll call 5-3 yes vote passed the motion moving the levy into the draft budget to be voted on when the final budget is passed at the Nov. 16, board meeting.

VAC Superintendent William Hanna declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

In other business, the board approved an ordinance increasing the GIS fees and a second ordinance updating the circuit court filing fees.

The next regularly scheduled County Board meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 16, in the small courtroom in the county courthouse.

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