By Bill Robinson
When he was running for election last fall, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Sixth District, would answer questions about federal spending with a question.
Was the purpose worth borrowing money from China, he would ask, noting the federal government was borrowing money, much of it from China, to fund its budget.
Federal aid for shelters that provide safety to victims of domestic violence as well as the prosecution of perpetrators was high enough on Barr’s priority for the first-term congressman to vote for the Violence Against Women Act’s reauthorization.
Barr disclosed the vote and received a round of applause Monday as he visited the Hope’s Wings shelter for victims of domestic violence in Richmond.
The congressman visited several spots in Madison County, starting with a town-hall breakfast in Berea, a tour and briefing on operations at the Blue Grass Army Depot and a visit to the Hospice Compassionate Care Center as well as the Hope’s Wings shelter.
Barr said his vote on the Violence Against Women Act came after conversations with the operators of shelters in Kentucky, including Hope’s Wings, and consultations with his staff.
We really need this,” the congressman said he was told about the issue.
He thanked the volunteers and supporters of Hope’s Wings, including several of its board members who were present, saying, “We’ve all got to work on preventing violence and abuse in our society.”
Barbara Bentley, Hope’s Wings board chair, said the community had been very generous in its support of the shelter.
Everything you see here,” she told Barr, pointing to the tables, chairs, couches and appliances in the shelter’s common area, “was donated locally.”
A grant through state government, supported by the Madison Fiscal Court and Richmond City Commission, allowed the shelter to reopen after it had been closed temporarily to residents because of lack of funding, Bentley noted.
Madison County Judge/Executive Kent Clark and Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes both joined Barr for the tour.
Also on hand were state Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, and Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester.
Carpenter said Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, led the county’s local legislative delegation in securing the grant that will keep the shelter open through June 2014.
Another grant has allowed the Richmond Police Department to hire a retired state trooper, Sgt. Stuart Adams, as a special victims investigator. Among other duties, Adams, who was present at Barr’s visit Monday, serves emergency protective orders. Since he was hired, nearly 90 percent of all orders are being served promptly, Bentley said. Previously, less that 80 percent were being served because officers could could not locate respondents, she said.
Thanks to Adams and others, local agencies also have been able to better coordinate their efforts to protect victims and expedite prosecutions, she said.
The 11 residents currently at the shelter were away on a field trip during Barr’s visit. The 16-bed facility has been using all its bedrooms regularly since it reopened, Bentley said.
Pausing for a brief interview, Barr said he had toured all major operations of the Blue Grass Army Depot on Monday and received an extensive briefing on how they were being affected by the automatic federal funding cuts known as sequestration.
Barr said he told depot officials there was enough flexibility in the sequestration bill to allow the Department of Defense to minimize the impact on base security, especially security of the chemical weapons stockpile. The Army can reprogram funding for both personnel and material to maintain safety and security, he said.
The congressman said his constituents could be assured he was concerned about immediate depot issues, including the project to destroy the chemical weapons, as well as the facility’s long-term viability.
Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@
or at 624-6690.