Fresh off his November victory, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was back in the Wiregrass yesterday. Sentator Shelby thanked residents for their support, and he also wanted to show his support for one of the largest economic boosters in the area...Fort Rucker. Sen. Shelby said that every year Fort Rucker impacts the City of Dothan to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars. Contracts account for $301 million, while military and civilian pay account for $214 million and $126 million respectively. Shelby said the future of Fort Rucker is bright in terms of not falling prey to Base Realignment and Closure, and many upgrades are planned for the post. Shelby said he would like to see the Navy and Marine helicopter training moved to Fort Rucker, strengthing the base and economy even more. Shelby spoke briefly on highway issues, saying the Wiregrass must continue to push state government for its portion of highway repair funds, which have nearly doubled since 1996, and keep an Interstate 10 connector on track which would provide an interstate from Montgomery to Panama City, Florida. Shelby said, "Approximately $18 million has been appropriated to I-10 that has not been spent. It will take $100 million to build the Alabama portion of it. You are going to have to pressure Montgomery big time. This is integral to growth." Shelby said he had spoken to Governor Riley about the project, which remains in the planning stages. Shelby said the route had not been selected, but pointed to a graphic of two western routes. "Or you can go downtown," he said. "You need to select a final route and go on." Shelby said the federal government continues to pump big sums of money to the Alabama Department of Transportation for various projects, of which the Wiregrass should get their share. "The state highway department has more money than they`ve ever had in their life." he said, "but they still don`t have enough." Shelby also spoke in length about the war in Iraq, and said we should also support our military and the president. He said, "Whatever we do, let`s back our troops. Let the military make the judgements and not the politicians. We will be better off."
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