Rogers and some of his staff members were in town for a meeting with local officials and citizens on some of their top priorities as U.S. legislators are preparing to tackle the fiscal budget for the upcoming year. The meeting was held in the Cherokee County Courtroom.
“I want to do a good job for you and that is what this is about,” said Rogers. “I’m going into the communities to find out what your priorities are. What I am asking for you to start focusing on is what your short-term and long-term needs are.”
According to Rogers, there are two types of federal funds that can assist with local projects.
“There are funds available through existing grant structures that are there year in and year out and they are community block grants,” said Rogers. “For any of those that your library, law enforcement, judicial system, your agricultural sector may pursue, I want to know about it and the fact that you are pursuing it, if for no other reason than to make a phone call, write a letter, or do something that puts a wind in the sail of that project. Or if there is a need you’ve got and if you will let us know, maybe we can help find a grant structure that you can plug into throughout the year. The East Alabama Planning Commission is a wonderful resource. But that is what I call a perennial grant fund.”
The other funds available, Rogers said, are those federal funds annually earmarked for projects in each Congressman’s district.
“You need to be thinking about these funds as one time only, so think in terms of $25,000 to $100,000, $200,000 for those things,” said Rogers. “Right now in our country, we are seeing two areas of federal funding that are growing. One is obviously the defense department. We have a war to fight. We are going to make sure our soldiers have whatever they need and we are going to spend whatever it takes to give them what they need and make it successful and bring them home soon and safe. We are going to have dramatic growth in defense spending and homeland security. Everything else is discretionary. It is not an entitlement program like Social Security. It is going to be either level-funded or cut. We can still help you try to attain money in those other areas, but it is really competitive and tight because everybody else in the country is fighting for the same dollars as last year.”
Said Rogers “The homeland security department didn’t exist in 2001. That’s when we were attacked. We didn’t need a homeland security department we didn’t think. Well we are putting a lot of money into that area to create, to renew efforts to protect our country from terrorist attacks and threats. So when you think about programs that might need help, think about law enforcement, fire, police and rescue services and security services. Those are the things that you are more apt to find money for because that is a growth area.”
Local representatives need to be on the same page about what projects they want addressed in this area, Rogers stressed.
“I can give the leadership of Congress 40 things that I want and they are going to turn back to me say, ‘I’ll’ give you three’ and I’m telling you the same thing. I know you’ve got a lot of things, but you’ve got to focus on what is most important and , get everybody behind it and and we will try to make that happen.”
Cherokee County Commissioner Earl Westbrook mentioned the problem on Cherokee
County Road 19, which is approximately 11 miles long.
“We have students going back and forth on that road all the time from Jacksonville State University, from our county, Etowah County and Dekalb County,” said Westbrook. “The road is just in terrible shape. I would like to see our county get some funding for that to help those students going to college.”
“You have to talk among yourselves and decide that’s what you want to make your priority,” said Rogers. “That’s how we can make it happen with everybody up here saying, ‘We want County Road so-in-so from here to here and place this amount of dollars and put it on your ALDOT request.’ And you’ve got Larry Means asking for it, you’ve got Gerald Dial pushing for it, you’ve got Richard Lindsey pushing for it, you’ve got Mike Rogers, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. You are much more apt for ALDOT to move that into their project lists.”
Cherokee County Sheriff Larry Wilson mentioned to Rogers the need for a crime scene van to be used in local investigations, mainly with methamphetamine which is a big problem in Cherokee County at this time. Rogers said the meth problem is increasing throughout his district.
The U.S. Congress is a “seniority-driven” system, Rogers said. Therefore, he hopes to be in Congress for a long time and hopes to acquire more for the people he serves as time progresses.
“What we don’t get this year, we will be working with you next year and keep plugging away at it until we attract you their interest,” said Rogers.
Some programs will face cuts in the upcoming budget session which will prove painful to some but they are necessary, Rogers said.
“Our federal government has to be just like your household, your finances or your business,” said Rogers. “You’ve got to live within your means. We are running a deficit right now because of the war effort and we are having to borrow money just like you have to do occasionally in your personal life. If you are a working man or woman and your transmission goes out in your car, you’ve got to get your transmission fixed, if it means you’ve got to go borrow money. We run up a little bit of debt like you do occasionally in your personal life.
But you also have to be responsible and start paying off that debt and not let it become permanent. That is the danger when you start becoming comfortable with long-term debt.”
Cherokee County representatives have until Feb. 20 to get their priority list in to Rogers. Commission Chairman Kirk Day and Commissioner Westbrook indicated they will begin discussions on a proposal for County Road 19 at the next commission meeting.
“Thank you for coming out,” said Rogers. “I really appreciate this community I hope if you ever feel like you are not getting enough attention from our office, please let me know, because we can’t fix it if we don’t know about it. Don’t be shy about asking. I haven’t been.