DOBSON — After much debate and a failed motion, a local veterans group will get the help for which it has asked.
Included in the consent agenda at Monday’s Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting was a motion to give the local Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter $6,000 to put toward the purchase of a new van for use in transporting veterans to appointments.
The motion would have reallocated $28,982 leftover from a project at the Franklin Youth Foundation. The $6,000 would have been put toward the van, and the remainder would go into a fund for use in repairs to community centers throughout the county.
Commissioner Larry Johnson, the most recent addition to the board, said $6,000 wasn’t enough for the van and the rest of the remaining funds ought to be put to use at the Franklin ball fields. He asked the item be removed from the consent agenda for discussion, a move which rarely occurs.
Johnson received the support of his colleagues in removing the item from the consent agenda, but not necessarily in his plan.
The DAV asked the board at its first meeting in June to consider contributing $14,000 toward the new van. The vans in use are high in mileage. The $14,000 figure was half the cost of the van. The national DAV organization picked up the other half of the bill.
Johnson said the county ought to fund the entire request for the van.
Though a majority of commissioners seemed to support funding the full van request, Johnson failed to gain the support of a majority to push the remaining $14,982 toward continued work at Franklin.
Johnson stated other departments and the county’s school systems have been allowed to retain unused dollars from capital projects to put toward other needs, but Commissioner Van Tucker, a member of the property committee, saw the matter differently.
“The project originally requested was completed. They already got what they wanted,” explained Tucker. “I’m willing to give the money for the van, and the remainder goes to other recreational needs.”
Chairman Buck Golding mentioned there were other needs in the county, such as when pipes break during the upcoming winter months.
The motion failed 3-2, with Commissioner Larry Phillips, who is also from the Mount Airy district, supporting Johnson’s motion.
The vote drew concern from the crowd during the open forum following the vote.
“Lots of veterans ride that bus,” said Mount Airy resident Rawley King. “It would help our veterans a great deal.”
Monroe Donathan, who had attended the meeting to speak about drug use in the county, also chimed in.
“Those veterans gave the best years of their lives in defense of this nation,” said Donathan. “The least we can do is keep a van on the road for them.”
Following the consideration of other matters, the board took another look at the use of the leftover Franklin Youth funds.
After first making a motion to go with the recommendation in the consent agenda, board Vice Chairman Eddie Harris amended his motion at the urging of Johnson.
Harris’s motion to allocate $14,000 toward the purchase of the DAV’s van and to place the remaining $14,982 in a fund for use at the county’s community centers passed unanimously.
Tucker mentioned he – and apparently other commissioners – had already planned to fund the entire van request, but were waiting to identify what monies would be used.
DAV Commander Michael Chilton expressed his gratitude toward the board for its contribution, saying he hadn’t necessarily expected the full contribution.
J.C. Short, who coordinates the DAV van service said the new Ford Flex, which will arrive in late July or early August, is much needed. A 2000 model van currently being used has about 191,000 miles on it, and a 2003 model has topped 200,000 miles. Both of the older vans will be decommissioned.
Short said the service is something on which many area veterans greatly rely, and the veterans group is always looking for able and willing volunteers to drive the van.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.