County delays vote on veteran services cuts
SALISBURY — County leaders delayed a vote on cuts to the county’s veteran services office until next month.
A handful of veterans turned out at Monday’s meeting to oppose County Manager Gary Page’s recommendation that commissioners look at cutting a part-time clerical member of the office, as well as the hours for Services Officer Elaine Howle.
The cuts were buried in a consent agenda Monday night but Vice Chairman Craig Pierce motioned to pull the item off and moved it to October 7.
Three veterans spoke up on behalf of Howle and her department. Howle herself sharply criticized the decision during the meeting, starting with finding out about the proposed cuts after a Post reporter called her last week while she was on vacation.
“Needless to say, I didn’t buy as many outfits as I was going to on my vacation,” she said.
Howle said she gets paid by the county, but works for the veterans, to help former military folks get benefits, process claims and recoup backpay.
The money veterans receive, Howle argued, is also spent here in the county.
“Why in the world would you reduce a job — and I make $31,000 a year — why would you reduce a job that’s bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars brought into this community that’s spent here?” Howle asked.
David Hand, president of the Rowan County Veterans Council, said Howle has helped veterans across the county find financial assistance.
“Please try to find an alternative,” Hand said. “And remember, these veterans are the ones that made it possible for you to be here tonight by preserving your way of life.”
After the meeting, Commissioner Mike Caskey said several people who spoke thought the decision had already been made.
“I think it’s one of our most important departments, but when you look at it, you have to think what’s the most effective way for the department to run. Times have changed,” Caskey said. “We’ve got three or four different generations of veterans now. Some are computer literate, some are not. Some prefer to sit down and talk to someone. Some prefer to look online.”
Caskey said by delaying the vote, commissioners can take a look at how best to reach those veterans in need and effectively manage the department.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.