Val Verde County Commissioners Court members have voted to continue funding a contract with a group that works in Washington, D.C., on issues related to Laughlin Air Force Base and the wider community.
County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. told members of county commissioners court during a recent meeting the budget he initially proposed to the court had not included funding for the Madison Government Affairs, Inc., adding funding for the firm would be up to commissioners court.
He told the court representatives of the organization had asked to make a presentation during the budget workshop.
Paul Hirsch and Jack Hession of Madison Governmental Affairs gave the court a brief overview of the group’s work.
“We’ve been around since 1996. We started out looking at the military and BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) and communities,” Hirsch said, adding that former Laughlin Air Force Base wing commander Dan Goodrich is also a member of the Madison team.
Hirsch spoke about some of the other communities Madison has served, including Newport News, Va., and Patrick Air Force Base at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Hirsch told the court he was on the Base Realignment and Closure Commission from 1991 to 1993.
“With Patrick (Air Force Base), we’ve been very successful. We overturned a recommendation by the Secretary of Defense to close out a Navy operation that was on Cape Canaveral, and we saved about 500 jobs at that location. That has turned into Lockheed-Martin bringing more people from the West Coast of California, where it’s expensive to operate, to Florida, and so we’re now up to about 1,000 people there,” Hirsch told the court.
“I know you don’t care about Florida, but we could do the same thing here, bring new missions to Laughlin,” he added.
Hirsch said Madison’s contract relationship between the city, the county and the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Association has existed since 2013, with the city and the county sharing the cost of Madison’s retainer and the Military Affairs Association picking up the group’s expenses.
Hirsch said Madison also has assisted the city and county with non-military issues without any increase in cost.
“We spoke yesterday, and as I said, my biggest problem is the lack of communication,” Owens told Hirsch after his presentation.
County Commissioner Pct. 3 Beau Nettleton said he, too, would like to hear from the group more often.
“I think you all do a great job. I would like to see you all do more presentations to the court, just so the rest of us can keep up with what you’re doing. . . A little more visibility to the court would be nice. I think you have done a good job, you’ve done some phenomenal things for the base and for the community, and I do appreciate those things,” Nettleton said.
The commissioner said he would like to see quarterly presentations from the group and monthly emails.
Hirsch said Madison recently worked with the area’s elected representatives to keep a major engine repair facility at the base.
“There’s a thing called the ERC, Engine Repair Facility, and the Air Force wanted to move it out of Laughlin. That was 90 jobs, at $60,000 a year annually, and we overturned that. We went to see the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who is from Texas. His staff and (Will) Hurd’s staff, we got legislation that said, ‘Air Force, you can’t do this.’ So multiply 90 times $60,000 a year in salaries, and that’s a nice poke,” Hirsch said.
County Commissioner Pct. 4 Gustavo “Gus” Flores asked about the cost of the contract to the county.
Hirsch said the county pays $43,000 a year and the city pays $43,000, with the annual cost of the contract $86,000.
“I appreciate the work you all have done. Just a few more presentations, and it’s all good,” Nettleton said.
Nettleton then made a motion to include $43,000 for the Madison funding in the county budget and to ask the group to meet with the court quarterly and send members of the court monthly emails about work being done.
Flores gave the second, and the court approved Nettleton’s motion on the 4-0-1 vote, with Owens abstaining.