SIERRA VISTA — In a roundtable session at City Hall Tuesday afternoon, a handful of municipal and county leaders made their requests and concerns to U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema regarding the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and whether their areas would receive funding once the bill becomes law.

Issues ranging from water and internet connectivity in rural areas to municipal airports, aging infrastructure and ports of entry were bandied about by a Cochise County supervisor, as well as the mayors of Benson, Willcox, Douglas and Sierra Vista at the one-hour event in the City Council chambers.

Sinema — who walked on one crutch as she mends a broken right foot suffered in a marathon she participated in two months ago — sat at the head of the table and told the group the bill she successfully pushed through the U.S. Senate with the help of Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio would result in money for Cochise County in several areas.

She said the bill, a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, should be “signed into law” by Sept. 27.

“From better roads and more reliable power grids, to faster internet in more corners of our state, to safer airports and cleaner water — everyday families in Arizona and across the country will see big benefits from our bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” Sinema stated in a press release. “How many times have we heard in recent months that bipartisanship isn’t possible anymore?

“It’s easy for politicians to stay in their partisan corners. I promised Arizonans something different — that I would work with anyone to get lasting results for our state. I’m incredibly proud to have co-led this bill to create jobs and expand economic opportunity in communities across America.”

“The legislation passed the evenly divided Senate 69 to 30 earlier this month, with Vice President Kamala Harris presiding and announcing the final vote,” an article in The Arizona Republic shows. “The legislation, which includes $550 billion in new spending, would make significant improvements to the nation’s roads, bridges, transit, water systems, power grids, broadband access, airports, electric grids, ports of entry and other public infrastructure.”

Sinema said the Sierra Vista Municipal Airport would be receiving $800,000 over the next five years, as part of the plan for Arizona that stipulates all airports across the state — no matter their size or location — would receive funding. Another large infusion of money — $440 million — will go to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. General Services Administration (the agency that builds ports of entry) for the two Douglas port of entry projects, said Sinema spokesman Pablo Sierra-Carmona.

The project includes the remodeling/modernization of the existing port and building a new commercial port. The ports of entry in San Luis are expected to receive a huge financial boost under the legislation.

That’s as specific as Sinema could get with the group on exactly how much money would be doled out to areas and projects in Cochise County.

“In this bill, the funding is dedicated to communities,” Sinema said. “What I’m most proud of is that we passed this trillion dollar bill without raising any taxes.”

Cochise County Supervisor Ann English asked Sinema how communities would access the funds slated for them once the bill becomes law. Her main concern was whether the money could only be obtained through grants, since grant writers are generally not available in some of the more rural areas of the county.

Sinema said no grant-writing would be necessary because the funds are “appropriated dollars.”

“These are appropriated dollars that will flow to governments through already-existing programs and structures,” Sinema said.

Willcox Mayor Mike Laws told Sinema that infrastructure in his city is from the 1960s and needs replacement. He also mentioned arsenic levels in one of the municipality’s water wells, an issue that English mentioned is not uncommon in the area because of mining. She said Tombstone has the same problem.

Calling the water issue a “priority,” Sinema, who took copious notes during the meeting, said she might get members of her team to “get on a conference call” with several communities in order to discuss the water situation. The bill includes provisions for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as aging infrastructure, among other water-related issues.

Mayor Donald Huish of Douglas mentioned the $440 million that’s expected for Douglas’ port of entry projects, which he said will benefit the entire county. But he also touched on one issue that everyone in attendance agreed could be improved countywide — broadband, or better Internet connectivity, especially in the most rural areas of the county.

Huish said it’s become difficult for Douglas to attract companies to the city because officials can’t guarantee “reliable connections.”

Finally, Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller asked Sinema if she knew when Title 42 would be lifted. Title 42 went into effect on March 20, 2020, under the Trump administration and allows the Border Patrol and agents with the Office of Field Operations to prohibit the entry of persons who potentially pose a health risk, among other issues.

Mexican citizens who otherwise would be allowed to travel back and forth across the border are only permitted to come to the U.S. for essential purposes.

Mueller said the city has suffered a decrease in sales receipts from money from Sonoran residents who crossed the border to shop on the weekends.

Sinema said there had been discussions of lifting Title 42, but after the coronavirus delta variant appeared, the plan was put on hold.