Owsley: What can county do for veterans?
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley challenged the county Wednesday to come up with initiatives to assist U.S. military veterans locally.
In his absence, Owsley’s fellow commissioners recently agreed to send a letter to Colorado legislators urging them not to direct the proceeds from a lottery scratch game to help fund veterans support services. Rather, commissioners said lottery proceeds should continue to fund wildlife resources, outdoor recreation, open space and parks across the state, as Colorado voters directed in 1992.
Owsley, speaking during the comment period at the start of Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, said he would not have sided with his colleagues on the lottery matter, citing suicide statistics among veterans.
“The question we have to ask ourselves as commissioners is: What can we do for our veterans?” Owsley said. He offered up such ideas as an extra case worker in Health and Human Services to assist veterans, a break for veterans in qualifying for worker housing, free bus passes and providing rides to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Grand Junction for veterans.
“It’s necessary to support the veterans. How can we manifest that support?” he said.
Commissioner Rachel Richards praised Owsley’s sentiments, but defended the stand taken by commissioners on the lottery issue. The bill supporting a lottery game for veterans services ultimately died in committee, but a resolution introduced Friday in the state Senate would divert lottery funds from the Great Outdoors Colorado trust fund to the state education fund for five years.
“I think our state legislators are getting very desperate to find a way to respond to deficits in the state budget,” Richards said.
Veterans are but one of many at-risk groups, Commissioner Jack Hatfield added, blaming the “partisan rhetoric game” in Washington, D.C., for the country’s inability to address a host of problems.
Hatfield reiterated his support for the position commissioners took on the failed lottery proposal.
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