|Fri, Aug 01, 2014 12:00 PM
June 25, 2014 | 09:19 AM
Harrison County Veterans Service Officer Marion Wallace told the county council Monday night he's ready to retire from the position after more than 11 years but will do his best to make it to the end of the year.
Wallace asked the council to go ahead and hire a replacement so he can train him/her about the position, which has grown beyond anything he could have imagined.
"All areas have gone up," Wallace said of service provided to veterans in the county. "A whole lot more people are using V.A., asking questions and looking for benefits."
According to Wallace's statistics, more than 700 veterans in the county receive assistance in some form from his office. In 2013, Wallace said more than $8.7 million came into the county through compensation and pension for veterans.
"That's a lot of spendable money in the county," he said.
Counting medical benefits and services, the actual total from the federal V.A. program into the county was more than $18 million last year, up from about $2.6 million in 2000.
"It gives you an idea how it has progressed the last 13 years," Wallace said.
He said 23 percent of veterans in Harrison County receive service connect money from the V.A. and more than 100 veterans use the van program for trips to the V.A. Hospital in Louisville or for other appointments.
"I'm trying to give you an idea what this office really helps carry on in this county," Wallace said to the council. "This is a big thing, very big thing. I can't do it anymore, I can't take the pressure ... I can't handle the stress and the burden anymore."
He said when he took over the van program, it had maybe seven to nine riders.
Wallace asked for not only his successor to be hired at least three months before he officially retires, but also for a part-time person to go along with the full-time officer.
"Especially if you're going to hire a new person," he said. "I don't see the program getting smaller."
Commissioner Kenny Saulman said the county should get busy and advertise for Wallace's successor.
"I think Marion has done a great job," he said. "He's helped my brother a lot."
The council agreed to get with the commissioners to discuss the matter and move forward with finding the next veterans service officer.
In other business, the council voted to pay off all compensation time owed to county employees (more than $40,000) and start anew July 1 when the new policy, which states any comp time earned has to be used before the next pay period so the county would not get in a situation with a large amount of comp time owed again, goes into effect.
Council Chair Gary Davis said comp time has been against county policy for two years and wondered how it built up like it did. Now, he said, they're rewarding the department heads for not doing their job by paying the comp-time money.
Davis and Councilman Ralph Sherman voted against the motion to pay off the comp time, but it passed 4-2 (Councilman Gordon Pendleton was out of town).
Harrison County Parks director Rand Heazlitt said profits are up 23 percent from this time last year for the parks. He said the new online service could be the main reason, so it may fall off some as the year progresses. However, he hopes — and expects — it to stay at about a 12-to-13 percent increase.
Heazlitt requested an additional appropriation of $50,000 for the purchase of three zero-turn mowers, two pool vacuum systems, a replacement chlorinator system and three work utility vehicles.
Councilman Richard Gerdon said he'd like to see bids for the equipment before the council votes on the appropriation at its next meeting, which will be Monday, July 14, at 7 p.m.
"Keep it local," he advised.
Heazlitt also requested $7,000 for lagoon repairs at South Harrison Park after the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management cited the treatment facility for violations.