County votes to keep only Veterans' Service Office in Hood River open

Tricia Stevens, Veterans Service officer, works in her office Monday, Sept. 19, 2018. She wants veterans to feel safe and supported. (KATU Photo)

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to continue funding the only Veterans' Service Office in the county.

If the office closed, veterans would have to travel to Portland or The Dalles to access services.

The commissioners meeting was filled with men and women who have served in the military.

The program is funded by the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs and by the county. The board voted unanimously to contribute $31,276 to help fund the program that connects veterans with many services for mental health, service injuries and home loans. The office serves 1,200 veterans and currently has over 500 pending claims.

"This is not a threat, but what we're dealing with our budget, this is reality," said Ron Rivers, the board of commissioner's chair.

Hood River County is currently facing a $1.46 million deficit, according to Jeff Hecksel, the county administrator.

The board voted before members of the community could speak.

Veterans expressed their interest in speaking, but Rivers ended their chance to comment publicly on the record.

"That meeting left a lot of people angry," said Tricia Stevens, the Veterans' Service Officer for the program.

Next year, the county is expected to make significant cuts to the budget. Rivers said the county may have to stop funding the program then.

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