Residents query Allard at meeting

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— Senator Wayne Allard listened to residents at a town meeting Thursday morning in Centennial Hall.

Allard is on a Town Meeting Tour of Colorado. The informal meetings are a chance for residents to discuss their concerns directly with the senator. Allard also held meetings in Craig and Rangely on Thursday.

Residents at the Steamboat Springs meeting said they were worried the Transportation Security Agency will no longer fund law enforcement officials at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Routt County Sheriff John Warner said such cuts would have a huge effect on a small town.

"Communities that have airports have an extra security burden," Allard said, adding that airport security is especially important during a national terrorism alert.

Allard was not aware of the cuts, and said he would look into the details of the problem when he returned to Washington, D.C.

"I need to find out what the heck is going on," Allard said.

The problem is amplified by the lack of federal funds given to local officials, other residents pointed out.

Allard said that an appropriation bill, which passed in January, should ensure that local governments receive more money. Allard said the funds should start trickling in soon.

Allard said he may support a bill addressing rural health care, although he wasn't familiar with the details of the bill at the time of the meeting.

Allard said he supported targeting money for rural bus systems.

The senator also took time to discuss the recent legislative session, which he characterized as busy but successful. Congress passed the budget ahead of schedule this session.

"This has been the most productive session we've had in some time in Congress," he said. "We've had our plate full with the conflict in Iraq."

Allard introduced a bill to Congress on May 23 encouraging further research into chronic wasting disease, which has affected elk and deer herds in Colorado.

Allard also discussed two other issues he has been heavily involved with: Payment in Lieu of Taxes policies and media consolidation.

Allard is pushing for complete Payment in Lieu of Taxes reimbursements. PILT funding should pay individual counties per acre of federal land within the county.

Last year, Routt County received about $260,000 in reimbursement for the approximately 665,000 acres of federal land within its boundaries.

During Senate Commerce Committee hearings May 22, Allard testified in opposition to media consolidation. The Federal Communica-tions Commission is reviewing long-standing rules on media ownership.

If these rules are changed, it would enable large media corporations to own more media outlets, such as television stations, in local markets.

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