U.S. Representative Chet Edwards (D) addressed the Somervell County Commissioner’s Court during their regular meeting Monday, Jan. 12.
He spoke to the court during the citizen’s comment portion of the meeting and said he was touring the area and wanted to hear any questions or concerns the commissioners had. He also said he supported the expansion of Comanche Peak and Glen Rose Medical Center (GRMC).
Commissioner Lloyd Wirt took advantage of the opportunity to ask about possible funding to work on local bridges in light of the increased traffic from Barnett Shale trucks and the addition of construction crews when Comanche Peak begins expanding.
Edwards said TxDOT grants and extra federal money via a stimulus package may be available but the county would have to fight for their share.
“If our rural areas don’t fight really hard for some of this money, every dime of it is going to the big cities,” Edwards said.
Somervell County Judge Walter Maynard agreed that transportation was one item on top of their list of concerns.
“Transportation right now is probably one of our main items. That and water,” Maynard said.
In a follow-up interview, Edwards said he is also working to secure money to aid the GRMC project. He said several years ago, he secured about $321,000 for a similar project and is hoping to get a similar amount this time.
“It won’t cover everything, but every little bit helps,” Edwards said.
Edwards is also working on two initiatives in a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) appropriations bill.
Last year, he worked to increase the mileage reimbursement rate to 41 cents. From 1979 to 2007, the rate was set at 11.5 cents. Edwards said 30 cents may not sound like much, but for many veterans it means being able to travel to the VA hospital in Fort Worth or Temple to receive medical care.
The second initiative he is working on would open up VA eligibility to more middle-class veterans.
Since 2002, eligibility for VA benefits has been frozen at $31,300 maximum annual income for a single veteran. Edwards would like to see that increased to about $34,000. He would also increase the limit for veterans with spouses.
“It will take several months for this to be implemented,” Edwards said. “We have so many veterans in our district. This could open VA care for hundreds more.”