Copperas Cove firefighters, city officials talk with Congressman during visit
By BRITTANY FHOLER
U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (R-25) stopped for a brief visit with Copperas Cove firefighters at the Central Fire Station Monday morning.
Williams, who represents the 25th U.S. Congressional District of Texas which spans from Fort Worth to Wimberley and includes Coryell County and Copperas Cove, shared his appreciation for the work that the Copperas Cove Fire Department has done and continues to do.
“I want to thank all of you for your service,” Williams said. “The main thing I wanted to come by is to basically tell you we support you all the way. I think you realize more people than not do support you, but in this time where you talk about defund police and then you’ve got the city of Dallas and other communities now are defunding the fire departments. It’s unbelievable and the brain that is thinking that, and you look at the communities that defund rather than defend, they’re disasters.”
Williams mentioned the city of Austin, which he also represents, as one of such cities. He shared that he spoke with a woman who owns a hotel in Burnet who said people are coming from Austin to stay in her hotel rather than staying in Austin due to the current environment.
“That’s the reason when you have these people that want to defund everything and pass money to psychiatrists and to all that sort, it doesn’t work, and I think it’s important that you need to know that I as your representative am fighting every single day for all of you,” Williams said.
Williams said he was available for any questions. One firefighter asked if there was any legislation being worked on in Congress currently that directly affects public safety.
“Right now, basically, instead of working on, we’re defending. The Democrats want to take $600 [million] out of your industry and pass it to social services, which of course we’re totally against,” Williams said. “That’s really the biggest deal right now, if you believe in the people, and you believe in small government and you believe in communities like this, we’re basically playing defense from the $600 [million] cut that they want to have done.”
Williams was referring to the $600 million that had been included in the House of Representative’s HEROES Act which proposed $3.4 trillion for COVID-19 related relief and stimulus funds back in May. This bill made its way to the Senate but was not voted on. The $600 million would have gone towards the Community Oriented Police Services Programs (COPS) and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants. The bill included $300 million for the COPS program, specifically for grants related to the hiring and rehiring of additional career law enforcement officers and for the purchase of PPE, and $300 million for the Byrne Justice Assistant Grants, which would help law enforcement agencies with the purchasing of PPE.
In the updated bill from the House of Representatives, which was pared down to $2.2 trillion, this $600 million is not included. The updated HEROES Act does include $375 million to go towards “Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs,” including $100 million for formula grants to states and territories to combat violence against women and $20 million for rural domestic violence and child abuse enforcement assistant grants.
It also includes $600 million for “State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance’’ for grants, contracts, cooperative agreements and other assistance as authorized by the Pandemic Justice Response Act.
Fire Chief Michael Neujahr said while that the department is currently set on masks - at the last inventory, the department had 70,000 masks - applying for grants is when and how the department needs support from Williams’ office.
Williams asked his field representative Don Nicholas to make a note about helping with grants. He added that his office is there to help constituents with everything.
“There’s nothing we can’t do at a Congressional office, so just keep that in mind, and it could be a personal thing,” Williams said. “It could be maybe a veterans’ issue, whatever. It could be an IRS issue, whatever. Don’t hesitate to call our office because we can do a lot of things to help you. That’s one of the roles of a Congressional office.”
Mayor Bradi Diaz was also in attendance and shared her appreciation for the help Williams’ office gives with the land swaps and with the Fort Hood Recycling Program.
“The land swap is so beneficial for our communities and for Fort Hood, so you guys have helped us tremendously,” Diaz said.
Deputy Chief Gary Young expressed concern about funding for the National emergency training academy in Emmitsburg, Md., which offers courses for firefighters in all 50 states and even approved candidates from other countries.
Young said that frequently the program ends up on the chopping block when it comes to reducing funding.
“That’s something that is very important to the United States Fire Services to keep that going,” Young said.
Williams said he agrees and again mentioned the desires of certain groups to downsize public safety. He said he would make sure to watch for any attempts to reduce funding for this program.
“I hear what you’re saying. Defund the fire department and defund their training- that’s not a good combination,” Williams said. “We’ll always stand with you.”
After the meeting, Neujahr said that Williams has always been very personable and willing to answer questions.
“It’s always pretty nice to have the representation of the district, of the state come visit the firefighters, to give a firsthand look at what we’re doing and what our needs are and concerns and just kind of give us an update on what the happenings are in the state and district at the federal level,” Neujahr said.