Leaders Discuss Security, State Parks

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While more than 70 people went to hear the state legislators at Eggs and Issues, only about a dozen went to hear the three men speak at town hall Friday.

Sen. Jack Brown, and Rep. Jake Flake and Bill Konopnicki referred to themselves as a "a bunch of old cowboys" and sat back in their chairs and took questions from the audience.

Councilor Dick Reese raised the issue of homeland security and the legislators gave their thoughts.

"There has to be a national effort and local, too," Brown said. "We have to be vigilant. We are vulnerable and I don't know how you cure it."

"I hate to even talk about it because it gives people ideas," Flake said. "We are a very vulnerable state."

"I think one of the biggest opportunities we have is improving long range communication," Konopnicki said. "We need to be able to communicate with each other across the state."

Councilor Judy Buettner asked how the country could secure such a large border.

"I think it will help immensely if we register people," Konopnicki said. "We estimate there are between 200,000 and 300,000 illegal people living here.

"It needs to be handled in a business-like way."

"I would like to see what it would cost to build a fence along the border," Brown said. "I don't know what would stop those people."

The three discussed higher education in Arizona.

"We are committed to higher education," Konopnicki said. "Traditionally U of A gets more money per student and NAU gets the least and they've done the most for rural Arizona. Community colleges are the backbone of higher education and we need to support them."

"I got (NAU) $7 million," Flake said. "They have the only forestry school in the state and they have set up their long distance learning in almost every branch of community college. I am a big supporter, but I feel they branched out too far."

Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation Director Scott Flake asked if state parks such as Tonto Natural Bridge are in any danger of closing.

"Do we have to worry?" Flake said.

Jake Flake responded.

"They'll stay open for now."

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