MOUNT VERNON — Overflowing their current second-floor office in the Knox County Service Center on East High Street, Veterans Services personnel approached the county commissioners Thursday with news of an unexpected opportunity. According to Veterans Services Office Director Trent Ansel, John Weekley Sr. has offered to rent the old Columbia Gas building at 411 Pittsburgh Ave. at a rate of approximately $2,000 per month for 4,500 square feet of office space and storage, plus parking. He was joined by Veterans Services Commission members C. Nate Boyd and John Kiser.
Ansel said that the building would be an improvement for the VSO, bringing it down to the ground floor, making it much more accessible to handicapped and elderly veterans who have troubles negotiating the elevator in the Service Center.
“You know as well as anybody around that we have brought this office up to a higher standard, and we want to continue doing that,” Ansel said. The expanded facilities would allow space to regularly bring in a counselor from the Columbus Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic to hold meetings three times per month for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
To use the space, the staff would have to do their own cleaning and trash would have to be dropped off at the Service Center, but Ansel said that this wouldn’t be a problem as they would plan on stopping by daily for mail pickup and other business. Ansel said that Weekley’s son, John Weekley Jr., would handle building maintenance and would install a security system. Mowing and snow removal have not yet been discussed. Ansel said that he would like the commissioners to visit the space, and they agreed, scheduling a visit for Thursday.
Ansel said that the VSO would be able to cover the monthly rent, but they were hoping that the commissioners could help with the cost of gas and electric utilities, which would peak at about $1,000 per month in the winter. Commissioners’ President Allen Stockberger said that the main issue from the county’s point of view would be determining exactly what amount they are allowed to spend on Veterans Services.
“I’m not sure if we can go beyond a half mill,” Stockberger said, referring to the tax that supports the program. He said that the commissioners would have to check on that before the next discussion. It was also discussed that there may be an opportunity for the county to buy the building later on, which would offer some additional storage capabilities.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller pointed out that the number of veterans is likely to be increasing significantly in the next few years, with the projected ending of operations in Iraq, which would make it a good idea to try and secure the proposed facility.
“If this is going to happen I’d like to see this happen before Trent retires,” Kiser said. Boyd agreed. Ansel is leaving in June. The commissioners said that they will check the numbers and look at the facility next week to see if a move is feasible.