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County considers vets help

The Douglas County Board considers extending a clerical position in the Veterans Service Office.

The county’s Administration Committee recommended extending a limited-term part-time position to full time for one year in the wake of the termination of the county veteran service officer, Trevor Welsch.

Historically a two-person office, a limited-term position was added this year to handle an increasing caseload resulting from stepped up outreach efforts under Welsch. According to the Veterans Administration, about 4,311 veterans lived in Douglas County in 2014, the most recent year statistics are available. That’s almost 10 percent of the county’s population.

Welsch was terminated Oct. 28 after pleading guilty for an ordinance violation Oct. 16 in connection with an incident in May in which he was accused of stealing a wallet while at a bar in Trego. The wallet was not found in his home, car or garage. He is appealing the decision.

The termination came one day after some supervisors hoped to extend the limited-term position held by Carissa Skifstad as part of the 2016 budget.

The Administration Committee made the decision to extend the position after hearing from Ellen Oaks, veterans assistant, who would be the sole person in the office at the end of the year if the personnel matters are not resolved quickly. The appeal process could take up to 60 days to resolve, and if Welsch is not successful in his appeal, a hiring process could extend that by two to three months, Oaks told the committee Nov. 5.

Since Welsch took over as veteran service officer, Oaks said foot and telephone traffic in the office is up, and more than one person can manage.

Oaks told the committee Skifstad has a caseload of her own to help manage the work to ensure veterans can access to the benefits they earned.

Several dozen veterans attended the last Administration Committee in support of Welsch and the service the office provides.

Thomas "Butch" Liebaert of the Lake Superior Chapter of the Retired Enlistment Association encourages veterans to attend the meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in Room 201 of the Government Center to show their support for Welsch and the position the County Board is considering.

Welsch said he is still waiting for a hearing date for his appeal.

While supervisors serving on the committee had several options for extending employment for Skifstad’s position, from part-time for part of next year to a full-time for the full year, after the position was eliminated as part of the 2016 budget. Committee members opted for the latter because of the growing caseload in the office, with the possibility of making it permanent position to be considered during the 2017 budget. Funding for the position would come from this year’s contingency fund.

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