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Commissioners meet to evaluate VS Officer

County commissioners went behind closed doors Wednesday to deal with the issue of adequately staffing the county's Veteran's Service Office after receiving numerous complaints from vets who say they need more attention to their issues.

The five commissioners conducted a performance evaluation of VS Officer Dave W. Konshok, who has come under fire recently as vets complained to the board they need a full-time officer. Konshok is half time and spends half time as the county's Emergency Management Director.

Wednesday morning, Dave Free, commander of the Park Rapids American Legion, pleaded with commissioners to make the VSO position full-time.

"There are more and more vets that need services," he said.

Konshok has acknowledged in the past he is not getting the job done due to a variety of factors, including his military reserve duties, getting an advanced degree and training seminars that keep him out of town. Last year he was gone nearly 90 days.

"I'm not at liberty to talk about it, unfortunately," Konshok said after the evaluation. "I can confirm the fact that I'm still employed."

The county doesn't have money in its budget to hire a full-time VSO, but commissioners have indicated they were amenable to altering the time spent at each position. Currently, Konshok spends 50 percent of his time at each job.

What concerns the board is Konshok's announcement last month that he could be deployed overseas and be gone for up to seven months.

Commissioner Don Carlson asked if he could decline his deployment because it would leave the county without an officer.

Konshok said he was obligated to leave with his Air Force reserve unit.

"It's an ongoing issue that we've been talking about for the past year as far as the staffing of the office," Konshok said Thursday. "It's a challenge in the current fiscal crisis, just backfilling positions is a challenge, talking about adding staff, so I would say the issue is still open. Still looking for that magic solution."

The results of the evaluation will be made public at the board's next meeting Oct. 21.

Earlier in the day, as Emergency Manager, Konshok recapped the flu-fighting efforts for county commissioners Wednesday, indicating the county has had one confirmed diagnosis of the H1N1 virus.

"We're in a supporting role," he said of his office. "The Health Department is the lead agency" in the flu fight, covering "things the health and medical folks aren't covering."

Much of the ground Konshok covered has been discussed at previous meetings, but he did say immunization clinics have been having trouble getting either flu shot serum or the inhaler mist to inoculate the general public for seasonal flu.

H1N1 flu vaccines are not available to the public yet, he said.

"Everyone eventually will get the H1N1 immunization," he told the board. "It's a matter of when rather than a matter of if."

"We've had a lot of absenteeism in the schools not linked to H1N1," he said, "but it's a little hard to tell" between the swine and seasonal flu viruses.

"Flu is flu," he said. But "H1N1 has a nasty habit of getting deadly serious," affecting mostly children and young adults.

There will be a "table top exercise" Oct. 29 at St. Joseph's Area Health Services in Park Rapids, he said, to discuss community flu responses.

A flu hotline has been set up. The number is 237-5611. It has different menus the public can select from, such as symptoms and treatment options and locations.

Nevis kindergarten teacher Jason Durham reported that Monday, about half of Nevis' elementary faculty members were out sick.

"I think people are much more cautious when they've got a few symptoms and are staying home, which is good," he said.

Park Rapids has talked about setting up flu centers for "mildly sick" people to avoid having flu patients spread the virus through clinic waiting rooms.