PI veterans seek access to Alpena VA office

ROGERS CITY – While Presque Isle County officials search for a new Veterans Affairs office director, a group of veterans has asked them to give the office funding to Alpena County instead.

Vietnam Veterans of America member Paul Marshall presented a petition to commissioners at their previous meeting. Petition signers are hoping to have access to Alpena County’s veterans counselors. In order for this to happen, the county would need to reallocate its funds from its own office.

“Anything else the board could possibly see it for additional funds would be greatly appreciated,” he said.

Veteran services in Alpena are funded by a county-wide millage, Director Dan Cox said. The office and counselors can only help county residents. Presque Isle County could potentially contract with the Alpena office, although any arrangements would need to be worked out between commissioners from both counties.

The Veterans Affairs office in Rogers City is vacant at the moment, board of commissioners Chairman Carl Altman said. Commissioners did not renew Walt Wenzel’s contract at the end of 2012.

Altman said he spoke with Alpena County Board of Commissioners Chairman Cameron Habermehl Thursday. He offered to let Presque Isle County’s veterans use the Alpena office in the interim during the search for a new director.

Alpena commissioners would need to approve a plan for such temporary arrangements, Habermehl said.

Such an arrangement would have its drawbacks, not only because of the distance involved but because paperwork is still at the Presque Isle County office, Altman said.

“Alpena would work fine for new claims, but if people had their history and records over here, and they wouldn’t have access to them (in Alpena), I’m not sure how well that would work,” he said.

In the meantime, Phil Presnell has agreed to step in while Presque Isle looks for someone to fill the position, Altman said. Presnell also is willing to train the new director.

“Not that we aren’t appreciating the offer by Alpena County and the petition, but at the moment we are going to try to keep our office operating here at one day a week,” he said.

Altman said the county is open to exploring the possibility of offering more than one day of office hours at the Presque Isle County office, he said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.