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‘I would like his job,’ man tells county about veterans service officer

Conflicting views on the competence of the Davison County veterans service officer were debated Tuesday.

The Davison County commissioners, at their regular meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell, were preparing to reappoint Veterans Service Officer Steve McClure to a new four-year term, but Mitchell resident Craig Bennett raised questions about how the veterans office is being run.

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“I do think countywide, there are some inadequacies that are currently going on,” said Bennett, who works as a veterans service representative for the federal Veterans Affairs regional office in Sioux Falls. “I think Steve is doing an adequate job of what’s going on, and I’m certainly not here to say I want him to retire and then move on and I want his job. But I would like his job.”

Per South Dakota law, a veterans service officer — who is responsible for assisting veterans with application and eligibility forms for benefits, among other duties — has to be reappointed every four years by the county commissioners. McClure’s term ends Jan. 6.

McClure, who took over the department in 2005, told The Daily Republic after the meeting he was “shocked” Bennett was at the meeting and claimed, “He’s been after my job for 10 years.” McClure, also of Mitchell, has been working with veterans benefits since 1972.

“As far as inadequacies in Davison County, it’s all being done the way it’s supposed it be,” McClure said in an interview with The Daily Republic. “I don’t know where he’s coming from that I’m inadequate and that I haven’t been doing my job.”

Bennett claimed some veterans have “slipped through the cracks” in Davison County and had to travel to Sioux Falls for benefits and services. He also claimed there’s a statewide problem that not enough veterans are educated about their benefits. McClure claimed Bennett has access to certain records that McClure does not.

Commissioner Denny Kiner, a veteran who served in the Army National Guard for 29 years, said he’s heard no complaints from other veterans about McClure. Kiner said McClure helped him receive some benefits about six years ago.

“If you’ve had complaints, we need names of those people,” Kiner said. “It does us no help unless we have names. People know I sit on this board, and I haven’t had anyone call me with complaints. If there are complains out there, I don’t know of them.”

According to a task force report on the delivery of services to South Dakota’s veterans that was presented Oct. 1, 74 percent of veterans statewide gave their VSO the highest possible rating for customer service and 69 percent of veterans gave their VSO the highest possible rating for their overall affairs. There were 500 randomly surveyed veterans regarding the delivery of services, and no county-by-county results were available in the report.

The commissioners agreed to table appointing a new VSO. Commissioner Randy Reider said it will give the commissioners a chance to gain input from other veterans about McClure’s work.

“My recommendation is let’s let this sit and deal with this next week,” Commissioner John Claggett said. “What I’m hoping for is we have comments from other people. I like that time for discernment because it gives us knowledge of what people think.”

Brink requests money

Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink requested a raise of $1.50 an hour for Civil Deputy Greg Nelson. He also asked the commissioners if they would approve a shift differential wage increase of 50 cents an hour for employees who work later hours.

The commissioners approved Nelson’s raise, which will increase his wage from $14.95 an hour to $16.45 an hour.

“Greg does a great job for me and I want to keep him,” Brink said. “I think he deserves this, and this is basically about fairness.”

The commissioners tabled the wage differential increase until information is available on how other counties handle higher wages for later shifts.

Brink said two of his deputies work a shift that goes from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., which is the shift he is hoping can receive a wage increase.

“It relieves a lot of pressure on our on-call guys,” Brink said of the evening shift, “and it’s working really well for the office. Since they’re working steadily night hours, are they entitled to a shift differential? I think so.”

Brink also asked the status of the possibility of hiring an armed courthouse security officer. Brink and Tim Bjorkman and Pat Smith, both First Circuit Court judges, are advocating for increased courtroom security in Davison County. Brink said he wants the officer to be a deputy sheriff and estimated the employee’s wage would start at about $40,000.

Commissioner Randy Reider explained the cost to employ the security officer would be higher after benefits are considered. Auditor Susan Kiepke estimated the full cost to be about $54,000 at $15.95 an hour for a starting wage.

The commissioners requested a detailed outline for the position, and Brink said he would come back to a future meeting and report again on the matter.

Finally, the commissioners asked Brink his thoughts on raising the speed limit for a stretch of roads northeast of Mitchell. The topic was brought to the commissioners two weeks ago.

Two Mitchell residents asked the Davison County commissioners to bump up the 40 mph speed limit on 250th and 251st streets and North Foster to 55 mph. Brink believes there’s no problem with the 40 mph limits.

“My guys work that area pretty hot and heavy, especially after school when there’s a lot of traffic,” Brink said. “I think 40 is fast enough. We get a lot of people going 55, 65 and 75 up there. If people are in that big of a hurry, they should move to town. We’re talking minutes of difference.”

Brink said the only road he would support an increased speed limit for is the mile on North Foster from 251st Street to 250th Street. The commissioners said they are waiting for more information and public input before taking action.

Other business

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

  • Renewed liquor licenses for Mitchell businesses Wild Oak Golf Club and the Kongo Klub.
  • Held an executive session on union negotiations for county jail workers; Reider said negotiations are ongoing and sent State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins back to the union with the commissioners’ proposal.
  • Heard Bathke request a second vehicle, a Ford F150, for planning and zoning and emergency management usage after the two departments joined earlier this year for an estimated cost of about $28,000 plus $4,400 for the purchase and installation of lights, sirens and radios.
  • Approved platting Lot 8A of Shank’s First Addition, a subdivision of the West 436.75 feet of Lot 8 in the northwest quarter of section 29, T 103 N, R 60 W of the fifth P.M., which is about two miles west of the Ohlman-Havens intersection.
  • Approved a motion to sign a certificate to Puetz Corp. of the substantial completion of the North Annex building renovation.
  • Approved a motion to sign a contract with Tech Solutions, of Mitchell, for 2014 to provide information technology services to the county at the cost of $2,964 a month.