By Jessica Mathews /

Hold-ups with a lease agreement could jeopardize grant funding and a planned move of the Livingston County Veterans Services Office.

Veterans Services is currently located in the County’s East Complex building at 2300 East Grand River Avenue in Howell. It received a $108,000 grant from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. The funding is to be used to assist Veterans Services in moving to a larger location that will allow the office to expand to meet the needs of local veterans and their families, as well as provide better visibility and awareness to the community. The Livingston County Veterans Committee held a virtual special meeting Wednesday night and discussed issues related to the new office. A location had been secured but a lease was never finalized.

Director Mary Durst said they haven’t received the lease agreement yet and she was told the owner has a new accounting firm. She said they should have received the lease two weeks ago and she’s been going back and forth with their realtor who says it’s supposedly arriving “any day”. Durst said at this point they’ll miss the mark to go before the Board of Commissioners and if the MVAA doesn’t extend the grant, then it would likely rollover into next year’s amount. She commented the grant is for new initiatives so they need to pay for the initial lease with the grant in order to be able to sustain that. Durst noted if they can’t get everything together really quick within the next week, they might have to wait until January 1st or move ahead without the grant. She said there is millage money available but then they wouldn’t be able to use grant funds to pay the rent going forward.

Member Bruce Hundley offered his thoughts on the situation. He suggested waiting until January and to tell the owners they’re looking elsewhere and they cost them a $108,000 grant because they were dragging their feet on the lease. Hundley said he doesn’t buy the story about a new accountant and thinks the owners are looking at other tenants and possibilities. He felt they should either use the grant money by September 29th or lose it, adding he thinks it’s pretty obvious they’re going to lose it.

Committee Chair Joe Riker commented the reason they’re not moving ahead as quickly as planned is because the owner hasn’t been responding as quick as they were supposed to, meaning they could lose the building they’ve invested a lot of time in and had renderings done for. Riker said they could just pay out of millage funds to get it done and stop postponing the project or can hope and pray get an extension for the grant. If they wait for the next grant, the amount could be much lower due to the impact of COVID-19.

Durst commented if they don’t have the lease and everything in order by Friday, it probably won’t happen. Members agreed to keep moving forward but otherwise, just wait to January and resubmit for the grant.