County hikes pay for Veterans Service board

The Washington County Commissioners heard some end-of-the-year business from the SNAP Ed program and Job and Family Services during the weekly meeting on Thursday. They also agreed to a requested increase in pay for members of the Veterans Service Commission.

James Giesey, executive director of the Washington County Veterans Service Office on Pike Street, requested the increase for representatives from AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

“They would like to increase the pay from $218.10 per pay to $350 per pay for one (commissioner) per year over the next five years,” explained commission clerk Rick Peoples.

Commissioner David White offered clarification on the request after he moved to approve the motion.

“They have a five-member board and each year there is a new appointment. These increases will take place with the new appointment. So the sitting commissioners can not get that pay raise unless they are reappointed,” he said.

Giesey was not in attendance and could not be reached for comment. The increase would be from $5,670.60 to $9,100 annually. The positions are currently held by Danny Hills (AMVETS), Larry Proctor (MOPH), Regis Kern (American Legion), Jared Smith (VFW) and Edward Hensler (DAV).

The Ohio Revised Code Soldier’s Relief Act of 1886 specifies that each county shall have a commission to ensure that the needs of veterans, widows of veterans and dependents of veterans who meet financial hardship through no fault of their own shall be provided for at least during a temporary transitional period. Such needs are primarily shelter, food, clothing and essentials to life. In addition to these basic needs, the commission also assists veterans with transportation to and from authorized Veterans Affairs medical institutions and with the preparing, filing and follow-up of administrative claims with Veterans Affairs.

Thomas Ballangee, outgoing director of Washington County Job and Family Services, and Flite Freimann, who will take over as director once Ballangee leaves on Dec. 29, spoke to the commissioners upon the conclusion of the regular business meeting to give an update on the department.

“The first matter is regarding the contract with the Youth WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) that is needed by the state,” said Freimann.

Ballangee explained that there was miscommunication between the office that oversees the program for the state and the county organization and the program has been operating for the last six months without this contract in place. Commissioners agreed to enter into the contract.

“The second thing is, we would like to post and hire two, potentially three, employees,” said Freimann. “One income maintenance case worker did not make it through the probationary period and we need to hire a replacement.”

The other hires would be a Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) position and a senior case manager who is expected to retire in 2018. At least one of the positions would be posted in-house only.

Also at the meeting, Sara Kroll, with the Ohio State University Extension Office’s SNAP Ed program, reported that Greta Lynch, a recent hire, will be starting new programs at Oriana House and Washington Elementary School in an effort to teach healthy eating and cooking habits. She also reported that participation and feedback of the Cooking Matters series has been positive.

“A lot of the participants are increasing low fat dairy, beans, leafy greens and are getting more confident in their cooking abilities,” Kroll said. “The program is for adults to get nutrition lessons, learn to cook from a recipe and take the knowledge home to their families. Last year’s series had 19 participants between two classes.”

Participants are recruited through information sent to eligible agencies, such as Head Start, WIC, schools with 50 percent or more of the students on free or reduced lunch and area food pantries. The program is mostly funded through grants, according to Kroll.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners agreed to buy back unused sick leave from 15 bargaining unit employees at the Washington County Home, as per the union contract.

“We’re buying it back at a lesser rate and it’s in the contract so we don’t have a choice,” explained White. “It really is a cost-saving measure, though, because it encourages the employees to not take sick leave just because they have it and then having to pay for someone to replace that employee.”

Upcoming meetings

¯ Joint Solid Waste meeting, Monday at noon, Lori’s Restaurant in Caldwell.

¯ Weekly commissioners meeting, Dec. 7 at 9 a.m.

¯ Monthly County Home meeting, Dec. 13 at 8:30 a.m.

¯ Finance Committee, Dec. 13, 10 a.m.

¯ Planning Commission, Dec. 18, 7 p.m.