In June, the Alcona County Veterans Affairs Department was excited to announce they’ll be building a new office in the village of Lincoln, a more central location with more space.
However last week, county commissioners voted the location was not fit for a new office. Now, the veterans affairs office will continue working out of their current room for the time being.
Right now they’re working out of a 120 square foot room in the Alpena County building. It’s a big concern when veterans come in for assistance and people in the hallway can hear their conversations. “We have to have privacy. I mean, we’re talking about veteran’s medical conditions and everything,” said Tony Atkinson, service officer with the department. “I’m sure I don’t want my neighbors or friends knowing about my medical conditions without my consent. Here with no privacy, that’s what’s happening.”
A new office site was donated to the department, and everything seemed full speed ahead, but last week county commissioners voted 4 to 1 that the location would be too hazardous based on an underground storage tank leak in 1983 and 1995. However, there was a survey done in 2003 by Compliance Inc. and in conclusion, they found, “no hazardous substance present in a quantity and manner that constitute significant hazardous substance use at the property.”
Chairman of the Alcona County Board of Commissioners Adam Brege said the commission felt it was too risky to use the site. Now frustration is growing amongst the veterans. “Me personally, I haven’t seen such disrespect towards our veterans since I came home from Vietnam in 1968,” said Patrick Smylie, a local veteran. “We just can’t work together with our commissioners. We’re just not on the same page.”
For the time being, the veterans affairs office will remain in the county building. “Right now we’re going to continue working out of this room here, but we’re still going to try to figure out if they’re going to work with us,” Atkinson said.
The county is currently looking at alternative locations for a new office.