Veterans Service Director Dan Meyer presented their annual report during the Isanti County Board meeting June 5.
The report included total yearly applications, distribution of Department of Veterans Affairs expenditures, community partnerships, Heartland Express and how they are supported.
“In 2019, from January until June 1, we’ve processed 357 forms. In 2018, we processed 1,190 forms and the prior year we were at 1,355,” Meyer said.
Meyer said this year there are 2,765 veterans in Isanti County. In comparison to 2018, Isanti County had 2,818 veterans and in 2017, 2,871 veterans.
“We are seeing a slow decline in veteran population, which is not exclusive to Isanti County. Contributing factors to that are end of life with veterans from previous wars as well as the reduction of forces deploying overseas,” Meyer said. “To put that into a little perspective, in 2008 we had 3,321 veterans living in Isanti County. So, between 2008 and 2018, we had a 16% decrease in veteran population. This is important because we get a state grant from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and we have seen that drop from $12,500 to the lower tier of $10,000.”
According to Meyer, the State Soldiers Assistance Program provided $24,885 of assistance to Isanti County residents from July 1, 2017, to July 30, 2018. This is an increase from the previous year of assistance at $17,357. The program provides assistance in the areas of housing, dental, optical, Minnesota GI Bill education, subsistence, disaster relief, and special needs grants.
Meyer said Isanti County has outstanding community support from residents, veterans and businesses.
“We do not act alone at all and we rely very heavily on different organizations and the community,” Meyer said. “As you know, we have a partnership with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and we also work very closely with MAC-V (Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans), whose main goal is to eliminate veteran homelessness in Minnesota, as well as organizations like Support the Troops based out of St. Francis, the local VFW, American Legion, DAV Chapter and the Lions.”
These local organizations support veterans through food assistance, baby layette, ramp installation, holiday gift cards, gas cards, emergency lodging assistance, packages for deployed residents, vehicle repair and dental assistance.
Meyer noted Isanti County has always had very strong advocates for veterans and the county has strong advocates at the state and federal level.
Between June 1, 2018, to June 1, 2019, Heartland has given veterans 213 total rides with 51 unique veterans, meaning these veterans use Heartland Express frequently.
Meyer said at the federal level, the Blue Water Veterans of Vietnam are dealing with Agent Orange exposure that extended 12 nautical miles off the shore of Vietnam.
“We are seeing, not only in Isanti County, but at the state and national level, an increase in claims for Agent Orange conditions,” Meyer said.
After the annual report, Commissioner Greg Anderson thanked Meyer for his hard work. Anderson told a story of a veteran who needed help moving and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon stepped up and the veteran was very thankful.
“I’d like to point out when we created the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon it created more work for the Veterans Service Office,” Commissioner Susan Morris said. “I just want to thank you for being the partner that you are with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, and that partnership just means the world to us. I think it makes us serve veterans so much better and it does increase your workload, and we all appreciate you a lot, Dan.”
Isanti mayor voices concerns
During public comment, Isanti Mayor Jeff Johnson voiced concerns about the intersection of Dual Square Boulevard and County Road 5 where the Isanti Kwik Trip is located.
“At the intersection last week, we had three crashes alone in two days. That is a horrible intersection,” Johnson said. “I’m begging this county to please put a three-way stop light at that intersection for the safety of this community and those traveling through it. It’s only going to get worse. I’m hoping and praying to God we don’t have a fatality that comes before the stop light gets there.”
Isanti County Board Chair Mike Warring asked County Engineer Richard Heilman about putting a stop light on County Road 5 and Dual Square Boulevard.
“The first thing would be to schedule a meeting to discuss it and go from there,” Heilman said.
Heilman suggested a four-way stop sign at the location, but Warring and Johnson both said that would not work because of a lift station at the location.
“It’s the only way I can see County Road 5 being safe,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of traffic, and it’s going to be an issue and it’s only going to get worse.”