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Commissioners planning to move county's veterans services, add courthouse parking

Mineral Wells Index - 10/24/2018

Oct. 23--PALO PINTO -- Retirements of the county's veterans service officers and the need for more parking at the courthouse have come together in a timely fashion to move county commissioners to address both.

Mack and Debbie Huddleston are retiring as the full-time and part-time veterans service officers, respectively, at the end of the month. Commissioners plan to move the county's veterans services to VFW Post 2399 in Mineral Wells, where VSO and Navy veteran Lee Downs oversees a highly successful program that has brought more than $8 million in benefits to veterans, their widows and their families.

Downs is training disabled veteran Clay Roundtree to replace him as the post's main VSO, and county commissioners will try to utilize their services and offices to augment and support the county's veterans services operations.

On Monday, commissioners moved to eliminate the part-time veterans services position and keep the full-time position, but at the part-time position's annual salary of $8,041 a year. The combined salary costs were $46,854, and the county's entire VA department's annual operating budget totals just over $60,000.

The county wants to move a computer, records and other necessary equipment to leased space at the VFW post for use by the county's VA benefits employee and advertise for the veterans services position.

"I talked with Lee Downs and he would like to see his assistant appointed," said County Judge David Nicklas. "Mr. Downs has been extremely helpful to a lot of the county's veterans."

The move is contingent upon approval by the VFW post's board of directors. Commissioners hope to have the move made by mid-November.

Nicklas said the Huddlestons are handling 50-55 inquiries per month, while Downs and his office are handling twice that amount.

With that, the county's current VA building on the east side of the courthouse would be available for use, and commissioners are planning to move exercise equipment currently housed and in use by employees inside a portion of the former café on the west side of the courthouse over to the VA building.

After that, the county-owned café property will be cleared off and turned into much-needed additional parking for the courthouse.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Gary Glover has arranged for the main café building and a secondary building to be removed at no cost to the county -- the contractor will recover and use whatever is salvageable in return for the demolitions and removal.


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