SIERRA VISTA — Newly elected Sen. Mark Kelly spoke with city and Fort Huachuca officials this week in an effort to zero in on some of the pressing issues the leaders are faced with.
Of course, COVID-19 was a prominent topic discussed with both Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller and Army Brigadier Gen. Tony Hale at Fort Huachuca.
One of the first points Kelly touched upon Wednesday in a brief telephone interview with the Herald/Review is the Coronavirus Relief Fund and how Arizona ranks on the low end when it comes to the money unemployed Arizonans are receiving weekly.
“We have 440,000 people (in the state) trying to get by on $240 a week,” Kelly said. “We are one of the lowest in the country.”
Kelly, a Democrat who was sworn into the U.S. Senate on Dec. 2, said the Coronavirus Relief Fund issue would be on the Senate floor either Friday or Saturday for a vote. If negotiations are successful, he said the weekly amount given to unemployed Arizonans for COVID-19 relief could increase by another $300 a week.
Mueller, who spoke to Kelly on Wednesday morning for a few minutes, said he and the new senator talked about the COVID-19 vaccines and the expectation that Cochise County will begin receiving the first batch of the Moderna vaccine the week of Dec. 21.
“The main point of the conversation was how we’re getting it and when,” Mueller said.
Mueller also talked about the lack of “super cold storage” availability in some of the health care facilities in the area and how that could prevent the Pfizer vaccine from coming here. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at more frigid temperatures than the Moderna vaccine.
Kelly communications director Jacob Peters said Kelly would be reaching out to mayors all over the state to discuss the pandemic and how it’s hit their areas.
“COVID has been a body blow to mayors,” Kelly said Wednesday.
The two men also talked about Fort Huachuca, it’s importance to the city and vice versa, and how the virus has affected the installation. They also discussed concerns Mueller has regarding the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area and whether there will be funding on the federal level for the local resource conservation plan.
On Tuesday morning Kelly spoke with Hale about how the post has been dealing with COVID-19. Hale told Kelly that some soldiers are unable to leave the installation for the holidays because they’re in isolation because of the virus.
Kelly also talked about Fort Huachuca’s unmanned aerial vehicle program and his vow to keep that mission at Fort Huachuca. The San Pedro River was discussed and Kelly said Hale informed him about the strides the post has been making on water usage and conservation.
Hale said the conversation was “great.”
“Sen. Kelly and I had a great conversation yesterday morning,” Hale said in an email. “He was genuinely caring and very generous with his time. We spoke about the current COVID environment and his efforts to get Arizonans through this difficulty. He’s very interested in supporting Fort Huachuca and I extended an invitation for him and his team to come out to the edge of the frontier and visit us as soon as he has time.”
Mueller, who said his talk with Kelly was “an introductory visit,” also invited the new senator to come to Sierra Vista so he can see more closely the relationship between the city and the military.