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Veterans Assistance Commission needs bigger office

MORRIS – To offer more services to local veterans, the Grundy County Veterans Assistance Commission will need a bigger office.

The GCVAC recently began bringing the traveling Hines Medical Mobile Unit and the Veterans Assistance counselors to Morris so that local veterans would not have to travel to Joliet, Orland Park and beyond to get many of the services they need.

Ken Buck, superintendent of the GCAVC, said his office is working to bring even more services to Grundy, but the current office space is too small to accommodate an expansion of services.

“When you get into the counseling side, you need privacy,” Buck said. “Right now, I don’t have any place in this office where I can have privacy.”

As of now, the city of Morris has offered up a room inside the city building where veterans can receive counseling, but Buck said he would like to move those services to make his office a “one-stop shop” for veterans in the area.

The GCAVC is eyeing a larger space in the Business and Technology Center, where the commission is currently located.

With the added 250 square feet of space, Buck said the commission would have room enough to hold conferences and offer private counseling.

A representative from the Orland Park office currently visits Grundy County once a month and uses a room in the city of Morris building. The representative would come as often as once a week if the space was available, Buck said.

Rent for the new office would be about $2,700 more a year, Buck said, and the GCAVC’s current budget could not accommodate the added cost.

“I’m looking into how much money I could scrounge up,” Buck said. “But I know I won’t be able to cover the whole cost.”

Buck is turning to the county to make up the remaining funds. The Grundy County Community Relations Committee met Thursday to discuss the expansion.

“I’m not opposed to having more space if it means more services for veterans,” Ann Gill, committee chairwoman, said during the meeting. “It’s just, how are we going to pay for it? That’s, unfortunately, what it always comes down to.”

The commission did not include a line item for contingency funds this year, Buck said, which could prevent it from receiving the needed payout.

Contingency money is a line item included in most department budgets. The money is reserved to pay for unexpected costs or projects.

“In finance, we have been keeping the budget very tight,” Dick Joyce, committee member, said during the discussions. “When you don’t put anything in contingency, there’s no leeway for anything.”

Buck said he included money for surprise expenses in a line item titled “Other Expense,” but has only $300 budgeted for other expenses this year.

The committee also raised concerns about increased utility bills in the bigger space.

“I don’t anticipate that to be a major increase,” Buck assured the committee.

Despite several fiscal concerns, the committee was in favor of expanding the space and passed a resolution recommending that the finance committee approve the $2,700 increase in the GCAVC’s budget.

Buck said the current lease will be up in May so they would need to act quickly to move to the new space.

“There’s a variety of things we could do with this new space,” Buck said. “There’s only so much we can provide right now.”

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