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New VSO earns rave reviews from county commissioners

Greg Remus

Hubbard County commissioners could hardly suppress their smiles as the new Veterans Service Officer gave his first accounting to the board.

Not quite a month on the job, Gregory Remus has reached out to vets, the American Legion, funeral homes and other agencies that render assistance to veterans and their families.

"Thank you for hiring me," Remus told the board, "I think I can make a difference."

Remus reported he's had a warm welcome from the community and he thanked his predecessor, John Lombard and personnel from the Department of Veterans Affairs for holding the fort down during the transition of vacancy this past winter after Dave W. Konshok resigned in December.

"We've had a significant increase in all categories (of veterans) coming in," he said. But his office records also show much of that increase has come since Remus took the job.

Remus said he intends to get a certification that will entitle him to use a federal database of veterans records. It will enable the office to join a nationwide trend of "virtual vets" as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs goes paperless within the next five years.

With the touch of a computer button, Remus said he will be able to see a vets benefits, claims history and entitlements, streamlining the process.

Remus also plans some outreach sessions in the northeast sections of the county, likely in the Laporte area one day a month.

"You are off to a really good start," commended commissioner Don Carlson. "You're making us look really good."

Remus said he touched base with the funeral homes to stress the importance of vets and spouses getting their $2,400 of death entitlements.

But he wants vets to know his office can help obtain many other benefits such as housing assistance, optical and dental services.

"The Legion is really happy with what you are doing," said commissioner Cal Johannsen.

"He's doing great from everything we hear," said Lynn Spilman, an officer in the Legion Auxiliary.

In other county action, the board:

n Commended Dep. Jeff Stacey and the Explorer Scout program for its recent fourth place finish in state competitions. The program is for budding law enforcement students. The local group received its ranking in academic sessions at a competition in Rochester.

n Received the report of the May 4 timber sale that brought in $282,061.22 from 27 loggers bidding.

Aspen brought $27.09 a cord; mixed jack pine fetched $40.43. That was higher than land commissioner Bob Hoffman had expected.

"We're either appraising it too low or they want it a lot worse than we think," said board chair Lyle Robinson.

However, a recent report from area lumberyards indicated wood prices have risen substantially in anticipation of the summer building season.

n Voted to spend $7,500 for maintenance of the depot Park tennis courts; $600 to place sand at the volleyball courts in Lake George and $507 to place two new grills at the south access site of Long Lake.

n Listened as County engineer Dave Olsonawski explained why the eastern portion of County Road 9 will not get resurfaced this year.

Bituminous bids came in at $50 per ton, Olsonawski explained. He said there was no reason to borrow $850,000 to complete the project, necessitating indebtedness for the county over a five or six-year time period.

"At this time in the game we don't want to borrow," he suggested. "We can wait a year, maybe two."

n Discussed the pros and cons of salting gravel roads. Some residents are opposed.

It costs between $2,000 and $2,100 per mile to apply sodium chloride on the roads.

Olsonawski defended the applications, indicating the salt keeps the gravel bound together and keeps dust down.

"They say it holds the binder in their cars, too," Johannsen said of his constituents who object to the practice.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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