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Moving Veterans Service Office could increase service and efficiency

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Commissioners are considering a proposal to combine the Veterans Service Office with the Family Services Department.

The merger could increase efficiency of public employees and increase service to veterans, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

The proposal was discussed Thursday at the County Board meeting but the commissioners likely won't take action until early next year.

"I'm putting this out there for discussion," said Kleindl, who encouraged the commissioners to talk to people in the community about the proposal.

The county has been looking for ways to increase government efficiency by combining departments.

Currently the county Veterans Service Office has two employees that are housed in a second-floor office of the Health and Human Services Building.

There are times when both individuals are out of the office, which means a veteran can occasionally encounter a locked door.

By moving the Veterans Service Officer and the administrative assistant into the Family Services Department on the first floor of the building, veterans could always receive immediate attention, said Kleindl.

And because veterans sometimes need additional services offered by the county, such as food support and home health care, they could have "an array of services at their fingertips," he said.

Veterans may object to "losing their identity," but Kleindl said changes can be made in the family services waiting room to make sure there's a strong veterans presence. He said the proposal has been discussed since March with the Veterans Service Advisory Board, which has endorsed the plan "100 percent."

Board Chairman Dean Shuck, who is a veteran, said he had initially opposed the idea, but he said if the veterans board didn't object, he wouldn't either. He said merging the offices would also be a more efficient use of county staff.

Kleindl said the county would move cautiously to advance the plan and would be "very sensitive to the veterans' needs."

The commissioners on Thursday also heard from Joline Hovland, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota, about a proposal to have all electronic waste in the county collected by an Illinois company that would pay Habitat a few cents a pound for the collected items.

She asked the county to provide space at the landfill for the company to park a trailer for the items to be collected.

She said Vintage Tech Recyclers would not charge residents to drop off nearly every type of electronic item, including TVs, microwaves, computers, monitors and telephones.

The county currently charges residents to dispose of TVs, which are taken away by a recycling company, which charges the county for the service.

The commissioners were supportive of the Habitat for Humanity proposal but wanted time to work out logistics.

The money raised by Habitat for Humanity would be used to help open a ReStore next year in Willmar, which sells used or leftover building materials to raise money for the program.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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