Deel visits Ironton Senior Center to discuss state government funding

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

He was a pinch hitter, he explained, but he had a few answers to area residents’ questions about state government funding.

Fred Deel, with the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, visited the Ironton Senior Center Monday.

Senior Center Director Carol Horner had invited Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher to discuss the state’s new biennial budget and its impact on senior citizens, but Deel said he was asked to visit in his place because Fisher had a prior commitment.

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The visit included a question and answer segment and it got started early, even before Deel had a chance to address the crowd of approximately 25 seniors.

“Why is it when a little city or a state or the federal government gets into a financial fix the first thing that gets cut is police and fire and prison guards?” Thomas Hatfield wanted to know.

“What do you suggest should be cut?” Deel asked in response.

“I don’t know,” Hatfield replied.

“I do know when it comes time to make cuts, these are difficult decisions,” Deel said. “Every service is important to someone and yet there has to be cuts.”

Deel told the group $26 million had been cut from the biennial budget, leaving the state roughly the same amount of money to operate as it had in the 1980s.

Deel said while senior programs suffered cuts in state funding, state officials have replaced some of that money with federal stimulus funds.

Hatfield wanted to know why the Chesapeake Bypass has not been completed, even though it was planned years ago, long before the current economic crisis.

Deel said population plays a factor in what projects are funded, as does the overall impact of traffic congestion alleviation. He agreed State Route 7 has needed to be replaced for some time now and is unable to handle the amount of traffic that now routinely uses that roadway.

Ruth Langer, with Family Guidance, expressed concern about the nation’s health care problems. Deel said he hopes a solution to this will come on the federal level.

Horner said she thought the economy would improve once those who have lost their jobs are back to work. Deel said infrastructure projects paid for by federal stimulus funds will be a catalyst for putting some of those people to work.

While some had questions, others had ideas they wanted to share. Cornell Fish spoke with Deel after the meeting about a proposal he has to use stimulus funds to help veterans buy new or used cars.

“It would open banks to loans and put auto workers back to work and help the veterans,” Fish said. He said 43 million veterans could be impacted by his idea.