President Donald Trump flew into Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City Wednesday to tour the base and check in on the recovery process ahead of a campaign rally in Panama City Beach. Officials on the base and the community spoke about what it means to have the President pay them a visit.
“It’s not every day that the President comes to your hometown so we're very excited. Especially to land here at Tyndall. Tyndall’s a vital part of our community so it’s critical for him to see not only the damage but the recovery that’s going on," said Bay County Commissioner Paul Griffitts.
He was one of the first to greet President Donald Trump. Griffitt’s is hopeful Trump’s tour of the base helped him see the need for more money for repairs.
Program Management Office Director Colonel Brent Hyden says supplemental funding is necessary because the Air Force has spent $450 million so far and can’t afford to spend anymore.
“The Secretary of the Air Force identified that 1 May is the end of, we're out of money," said Hyden. "So all the contracts that we have ongoing as of funding allocated for prior to 1 May are continuing but there’s no new recovery contracts ongoing past that date."
But Hyden says those roadblocks haven’t completely stalled base operations.
"We’re doing it out of temporary facilities, we’re doing it out of in some cases tents. We had 78 airmen in tent city last night. We’re working really hard to get people into hard billets out of tents before hurricane season starts at the end of this month."
Yet, those solutions are just Band-Aids.
"It’s temporary repairs and we need the significant funding from Congress in order to go for putting the permanent repairs in place," said Hyden.
Hyden says when those permanent repairs are made, officials want to build the base to a be a 21st century model. Trump touted the plan during his rally Wednesday night.
"They’re doing drawings and they’re doing architecture of different areas. We’re building some new buildings, we’re fixing some old good ones that got very badly hurt but structurally they’re sound and when we’re finished it’s going to be something that’s really special, one of the best anywhere in the country," said Trump.
Hyden estimates the total cost of the projects at $3 billion. He expects some of that money to trickle into the community.
Meanwhile Tem Fontaine, a member of the Military Affairs Committee, sees the Commander-in-chief’s visit as a good sign.
“He [President Trump] knows that we have the needs, he’s coming through and driving through our devastated communities, so yes, I feel like he’s here to take care of fellow Americans that have suffered in this natural disaster."