Commission votes to allow volunteers to use old veterans office

One of the last remaining obstacles between local veterans and their own volunteer office was cleared at Monday’s Chilton County Commission meeting.

The commission voted unanimously to allow a group of volunteers access to the former Veterans Affairs office in the county courthouse. That office closed June 1 after a lack of state funding necessitated cuts in the Veterans Affairs department.

But several local veterans have expressed interest in helping staff a volunteer office, including Phil Burnette, American Legion 23rd District commander, who addressed the commission before its decision, which drew a round of applause from those in attendance.

“We feel like we can make a difference,” Burnette said.

Burnette told the commission that equipment would still have to be purchased and incorporation paperwork filed. The hope is for the volunteer office to be able to provide at least the same service as the former Veterans Affairs office, which was housed in the courthouse for more than 50 years.

The commission also voted to help the Chilton County Airport Authority–though that vote wasn’t unanimous.

Commissioners voted 4-3 to pay off a loan of about $153,000 the Authority used to purchase a hangar several years ago.

The money will come from the Industrial Development Fund, which is separate from the cash-strapped General Fund and can only be used for certain projects.

Commissioners Bobby Agee, Allen Caton, Heedy Hayes and “Red” Turnipseed voted in favor of the measure, while Chairman Tim Mims, Joe Headley and Greg Moore voted against paying off the loan.

Airport Authority Chairman Craig Cleckler told the commission that the monthly loan payment is difficult to make for an organization that has limited sources of income. With the loan paid off, Cleckler said the Authority could explore ways to bring in money, such as another hangar and a fuel truck.

The Authority’s goal is to make the airport self-sufficient, but commissioners disagreed on whether putting county money toward an airport loan was the best approach.

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