U.S. Congressman Chet Edwards was on hand Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 28, to field questions from Alvarado city leaders and other Alvarado residents, and to listen to their concerns during an informal gathering at City Hall.

Alvarado Police Chief John Allen expressed his concerns about the limited budget for police officer’s salaries in smaller communities like Alvarado.

“Small cities have trouble competing with larger cities like Cedar Hill and Farmer’s Branch with starting salaries of over $40,000 while we can only start them out in the $30,000 range,” Allen said, suggesting to Congressman Edwards that perhaps grants could be made available to smaller communities to deal with the salary issue.

Chief Allen also expressed concern about being lacking in telecommunications equipment.

“I never will promise more than I can deliver, but if I can be kept abreast of your needs and concerns through direct contact like this, I will be on the lookout to see what’s out there for you,” Edwards said, saying, “We want each city and county to be able to be totally responsible for their own law enforcement, and I am thrilled to be able to find funding for programs that can help communities in law enforcement.”

There were also concerns voiced by Precinct 3 Commissioner Mark Carpenter concerning a critical need for road and highway improvements, citing the $3.6 billion spending cut on transportation.

“Transportation is on the verge of crisis in Texas,” Edwards said, citing the problems with the Texas road and highway systems not keeping up with the demand. “Families have three or four cars each - the road ways are becoming inadequate for today’s traffic,” he said, noting that workers commute time will more than double over the next few years without upgrades to the highway systems.

Alvarado Independent School District Superintendent, Dr. Chester Juroska, cited problems brought on the local school system by the No Child Left Behind Act, saying that the TAKS grading system was not appropriate for groups such as special education.

Clint Davis, President of First Financial Bank asked Edwards if there was any action to be taken in Washington which would address the ever-growing problem with identity theft. Davis added that the bank had received statistics from their corporate head stating that last year, there was more financial loss through fraud than from bad loans.

Congressman Edwards praised the Alvarado Fire Department for the strides they have made in receiving a $250,000 grant for a new fire truck, but noting inadequate equipment in the event of fire in multi-story building, referring to several new four-story hotels in Alvarado.

“What if you had a fire on the fourth floor of one of those buildings,” asked Edwards.

“We have an arrangement made with Burleson (Fire Department) which is only about 15 minutes away.” said Richard Van Winkle, Alvarado Fire Chief, who also voiced concerns similiar to those of Police Chief Allen regarding salaries.

“We get young men in here, and get them good training, and in about two or three years, these bigger cities will pick them up,” Said Van Winkle.

Several people in the crowd expressed appreciation to Congressman Edwards for taking time to schedule informal meetings with communities in his district.

“We’re very fortunate that we have a congressman who will take time to come and meet with us personally,” said Mayor Tom Durington.

Congressman Edwards expressed his concern that the media only focused on the loud voices on the extreme right or extreme left, saying that it is wrong that moderates on both sides of the aisle whose bipartisan efforts to get things done hardly ever get reported by the press.

E-mail paul at: paul.gauntt@waxahachiedailylight.com