September 20, 2018

Veterans Affairs millage renewal to be on August ballot

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OSCODA COUNTY — Oscoda County residents will be asked to renew support for the county Department of Veterans Affairs office when they go to the polls Aug. 7.

The millage is for 0.3333 mill over four years. It is estimated to raise $130,390 over the first year.

Board of Commissioners Chairperson LaNita Olsen said this millage is a way for residents to give back to veterans.

“Veterans are aging in this county,” Olsen said. “They sign on the dotted line and put their lives on hold for us. … The least we can do is support them.”

Commissioner Pat Kelly said he believes the department is coming into its own and doing a “very good job” of handling funds.

According to the millage language, the funds would be used to pay the costs of operating the Veterans Affairs office. It would also provide monetary support and assistance services to veterans.

Veterans Affairs Director A.J. Welser said the funds the office has received in the past have helped it to increase its presence in the county and help more veterans. He said near the beginning of the program he was serving roughly 15 people. He said now he is working with more than 50.

Welser said some of the services the office provides to veterans range from distributing food vouchers, helping to settle delinquent taxes, alleviating the cost of propane and firewood, and even paying for portions of memorials. He said without the millage, the department would be restricted on how many people they’d be able to assist.

“We have money set aside to get veterans to area clinics,” Welser said. “We spent $2,000 trying to get them to those clinics. We have a lot of vets on Social Security in the area. Without the millage I don’t know if we’d be able to offer that service.”

Welser said he believes there is community support for the millage because the office is having a positive effect on veterans, and he thinks the community sees that. For those who don’t think the office is spending money frugally, he said to stop by the office and give suggestions.

“I ask them to call me or stop by the office,” he said. “Everything I do is transparent. If you think I’m doing something wrong, tell me. I have nothing to hide.”

Welser was adamant about one tenet the office abides by, which is the office only helps those who truly need it. There is a vetting process to determine whether or not a person truly needs assistance, and only those who are deemed to be in dire straits are offered assistance.

Welser said if the millage is renewed, he believes the office will be able to continue to offer support to a growing pool of veterans. He said the longer the millage is upheld, the more veterans the office will be able to provide assistance to.

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