Veteran’s Affairs Committee

The Livingston Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been in the news for a couple of reasons: (1.) Complaints that the Veterans’ committee was not spending the money from the recently passed millage in the way promised before its adoption;  (2.) An investigation of alleged mishandling of one person’s donation.

Let me give some context to what is happening. Sometime after the Civil War, a system of county veterans’ organizations was established to meet the needs of veterans of that era. Previous to that, all “indigent” people were helped by a social safety network funded and controlled by each local township. This was well before the National VA, the health and hospital system, and the current well-developed national social safety net that is available for all (including veterans) with needs. In 1953, state law changed to give the county commissioners authority to appoint 3 to 7 committee members to run the newly-available “Department of Veterans’ Affairs” in counties wanting the modernized delivery of service to veterans. In Livingston County, we, the Board of County Commissioners, are responsible to appoint the members of this Veterans’ Committee, who then have the full responsibility to administer its funds and the programs. We may only remove a committee member for cause, not for differences of opinion. We also have power to control downward the amount of millage that is assessed to property owners. In fact, this committee has never asked to assess the whole amount approved by the voters. I understand that they are proposing another cut this year in the mileage rate going to their agency.

Notice the first accusation is not for foolish spending, but for not spending money. This means the money is still there to be spent. Secondly, the literature that I saw promoting the 2016 vote for the veterans’ millage used the words “may be” instead of “will be”. It was presented as a vision, not a promise. We all know that money never goes as far as we would like. It is unrealistic to expect that the entire amount would be spent immediately and every program be fully functional.

The Board of Commissioners recently approved spending some of this money by opening a position for a full-time veterans’ court official to handle the cases for the specialty court to help veterans without incarcerating them. The members of the Veterans’ Board came to advocate for only a part-time official because of the small number of cases involved. They compared the case load in other counties’ specialty courts and recommended that we create only a part-time position. Their concern was not the amount of money, but the efficient use of the money. The board in that case agreed with the court’s request for the full-time position.

The Veterans’ Affairs Committee is a very active group and they have had a hard time finding a director with their same philosophy. This has created more turnover than is best for any organization and has slowed the process of implementing the proposed plans for the millage.

Though all of the bullet points of the proposed uses in the veterans’ literature may not turn into “promises kept,” I am confident that this money is now, and in the future will be, harnessed to the best advantage.

Regarding the current investigation, we do not know what will be discovered in this probe and I feel it is best not to comment further at this time.  

Governor Snyder’s call for a review of public water systems in Michigan has found unacceptable levels of PFAS in a few water systems in Michigan (Kalamazoo to name one). In Livingston County, a “do not eat fish” notice has been issued for the Huron River system all the way to Lake Erie because of fish found in Kent Lake with elevated levels of this chemical in their bodies. A likely source has been located in a Wixom Factory that electroplates.   A new filtering system is being installed to eliminate polluted discharge.

Because of this, the state has ordered the testing of all public wells. Twice a month Matt Bolang, the director of Livingston County’s Environmental Department, gives us an update on this concern for our county. As of Monday night (10-1), Matt stated that 73 of the 87 public wells in the county have been tested and 57 of the results have come back. Of these results, many have a “no detection” and all results are well within the acceptable standard. He has advised us that at this time there is no action he recommends for the Board of Commissioners to take. We are doing everything in our power to insure that the water sources in Livingston County are protected.

PFAS chemicals are in a family of 4000 or more chemicals of a similar complex construction. Thirty or more of these are in common use in society. “Scotch guard” on clothes, water resistant paper food wraps at fast-food restaurants, and fire-fighting foam are some of the daily uses that contribute to the present pollution and future concerns.

These chemicals are not harmful (generally) when in contact with the skin, as swimming in the water or being sprayed with water. Its harm is in the ingesting of this water and then the negative affect when it accumulates in the fatty cells of the body.

I hope this snapshot of the issues will be helpful to you.  Please contact me with any further questions.


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