MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Veterans Services will save $2,500 per month, or $30,000 yearly, from not having to rent their current location at 411 Pittsburgh Ave. when they move into the soon-to-be-remodeled Central School building later this year.

Awaiting its staff will be the more spacious former school location on East Chestnut Street, plus some additional space made available on the second floor. That is expected to happen by the fall. The county owns the building so there will be no rent due as the rent money saved is “absorbed” back into Veterans Services. Veterans Services will share the renovated Central School building with the county Board of Elections.

That is some of the good news Kevin Henthorn, county veterans services executive director, shared Thursday with the Knox County Commissioners. He was joined at the table by Knox County Veterans Services commissioners George Curry, Jerry Robinson, Ken Lane and Wilson Warner. Veterans Services has been in its present location more than a decade.

A big part of the move will involve getting the word out to veterans in the local area, which will be accomplished through various forms of advertising, Henthorn said. Although it is difficult to determine the actual number of military veterans living in Knox County, there were about 4,400 veterans who received services within the county last year, he offered. Those services include transportation to medical appointments outside of the county to sites such as the Columbus Vet Center, and helping veterans to sign up for several types of federal and state benefits. They range from hardship-related pensions for those who served in wartime, and disability-related medical care — both covered by federal VA funding — to state benefits including the homestead tax exemption.

Veterans in Knox County include younger veterans from more current military service to Korean War veterans and even some remaining World War II veterans, he said. Many are elderly and receive medical care, so the earlier they know about the new location and plans to move there later this year, the better, Henthorn offered. News about the move “will generate a lot of excitement, I think,” he offered, which is best disseminated through a multi-media advertising run.

“Nothing hurts like someone saying, ‘I didn’t know we have a veterans office (in Knox County),” Henthorn said. “I take it personal.”

Henthorn provided budget statistics for Knox County Veterans Services. It will operate this year on a projected budget of $700,000, which is funded through a half-mill property tax as prescribed by Ohio law and is part of the county’s $17.5 million General Fund budget. For every dollar spent on county veterans services, it produces $37 spent on veterans for the federal and state services they need and deserve after serving their country, he said.

In 2017, with 2018 statistics not yet available, Ohio Department of Veterans Services showed that $23.3 million in federal VA dollars was spent on veterans receiving services through Knox County Veterans Services: $12 million on hardship compensation and pensions; $1.27 million on vocational and educational rehabilitation and employment; $9.9 million on medical care; and $148,000 on insurance and indemnities. Henthorn noted that although more is spent each year on veterans services, the veterans population receiving those services has declined each year since 2012.

Commissioner Bill Pursel noted that not all of these funds are actually spent in Knox County, though the services to veterans is through Knox County. Many of the actual funds spent on care would be spent in places like Franklin County, where Veterans Services transports veterans each week day into Columbus. Other stops include Cleveland twice a week, and Dayton once a week.

In order to make transportation work in future years, more costs will need to be taken on by Knox County Veterans Services, Henthorn said. Disabled American Veterans Post 143 in Knox County recently dissolved, due to declining membership. Under a prior arrangement with them, both entities shared the cost of purchasing vans, which are now down to three vans after one was taken out of use. The DAV provided fuel and maintenance, and Veterans Services provided the drivers.

Fuel and maintenance amounts to about $1,000 per month, and a total of 1,000 veterans received transportation last year, Henthorn said. But with the DAV dissolved, Veterans Services will take on these costs. Veterans Services has reserved $40,000 to purchase a shuttle bus/van that will allow veterans to walk up stairs and into their seats like a normal bus. That is an advantage over eight-seat passenger vans where patrons must duck their heads under the van roof upon entry and are far less comfortable than a shuttle vehicle.

 

Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or larry@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews

 

 

 

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