BY MELANIE BUCK –
Congressman Bruce Westerman visited Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport and Healthy Connections, Inc., on Monday, April 17, touring facilities and listening to concerns from both businesses about legislation and regulations that negatively impact their economic prosperity, and that of their patrons. Westerman represents the 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, having been elected in 2014.
He serves on the Committee on the Budget, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Committee on Natural Resources, where he is the Vice Chair of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. Westerman also serves on the Majority Whip Team under the leadership of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
Westerman joined Mena Mayor George McKee, Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison, Sheriff Scott Sawyer, and State Representative John Maddox on a tour of Hampton Aviation. The airport’s 40-year master plan was discussed with Westerman, as well as concerns over the FAA’s request for the airport to tear up a 500-foot strip of asphalt to comply with the plan. Greg Shipley, of Morrison Shipley Engineering Firm, explained why it is not a viable plan to rip up the asphalt, as the FAA has requested, including safety issues.
Duane Corcoran, member of the Airport Commission also discussed concerns over traffic systems at the airport and expressed the hopes of them being upgraded soon. Corcoran gave the best example of the importance of Mena’s airport and the businesses that line its runways when he explained the history of a plane purchase he made. Several years ago, Corcoran purchased a plane and found that twice, the aircraft had flown to Mena specifically to be serviced. “These planes fly all over the country, see different airports all the time, and they choose Mena to come to. That proves there is something special about our airport.”
At Healthy Connections, Westerman toured their health and dental facilities, in addition to their new state of the art pharmacy located inside the clinic. HCI officials discussed several health-related topics with the Congressman, including many concerns over behavioral health regulations, telemedicine practices, and how reimbursements, or non-reimbursements, from Medicaid affect how other insurance companies pay, often causing health facilities to re-evaluate their services.
Westerman enjoyed his visit to Mena and plans to further research the topics discussed to best represent his district on the federal level. “It’s been a great visit. I enjoyed seeing the airport. I wasn’t aware of all of the industry out there and was pleasantly surprised. I hope they continue to grow and stay in operable conditions so it meets the needs of the employers out there. As far as Healthy Connections, these health centers provide a tremendous service to rural communities. I understand the importance of them, not just to Mena, but to all of Arkansas. It was good to get out and see all the good work that is being done.”