The advisory council leader said women can form their own veterans group if they prefer.
BY MARY GRZEBIENIAK
MERCER -- Mercer County commissioners have narrowed from 55 to 16 the field of applicants for the job of director of the Mercer County Department of Veterans' Affairs.
Once they cut that to six, the newly appointed Veterans Advisory Council will be invited to sit in on interviews, although members will not participate in questioning candidates.
The job, which becomes vacant June 30 when James Smartz retires, will pay $28,000 to $39,000 a year.
Complaint: Commissioners also agreed Thursday to leave it up to the advisory council to decide if action is necessary in response to a complaint made to area newspapers by a woman veteran.
Suzanne Emery, 73, of Mercer, a retired major with the Air Force Nurse Corps, questioned the absence of women on the advisory council, which was formed in February.
Commissioners named the 11 members and nine delegates drawn from county veterans organizations. Commissioners said they went through the veterans organizations, although only about 30 percent of the county's 14,000 veterans belong to them.
Commissioners agreed Thursday they will not interfere with the advisory council's handling of the issue.
Commissioner Olivia Lazor said that while the gender issue should be discussed, "I'm not going to tell you [the advisory council] what to do because what's the sense of having an advisory council?"
Anthony Cashier of Sharon American Legion Post 299 said the post has never refused any women membership and has had several female members. He added that women veterans have shown some reluctance to join the Legion, preferring instead to join the auxiliary.
Bill Brandenstein, head of the advisory council, said that, if they prefer, women could form their own veterans' organization that could become part of the advisory council.
Emery said male veterans cannot represent the interests of female veterans. She said she doesn't think she was adequately assisted by veterans groups when she returned to this area several years ago and when she and another female veteran attended the first meeting of the veterans council in February she felt insulted because the group ignored them.
Moving offices: The veterans also had questions about the county's plan to move the veterans office from the first floor of the county courthouse to the basement.
Commissioner Ken Seamans said the move is for handicapped accessibility.
Prayer: Commissioners also came out in favor of school prayer, unanimously adopting a resolution supporting a U.S. House resolution which seeks to reinstate prayer in public schools.
Commissioner Gene Brenneman said several counties in Pennsylania have already adopted similar resolutions.
Lazor said prayer is needed, "especially with what is happening nationally and internationally."
In other business, they authorized advertising for bids to replace a bridge on Clay Furnace Road in Jefferson Township, approved a $38,360 contract with L. Robert Kimball and Associates, Ebensburg, for engineering services related to a microwave path and transmitter site study to improve communication between the E-911 center and ambulances and hired two clerks.