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City might join lobbying coalition

December 03, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown is considering whether to spend $5,000 to help hire a lobbying firm to represent the city and other members of the Washington County Community Lobbying Coalition at the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis.

Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, requested the money Tuesday during a City Council work session.

Poffenberger said the money would be used to hire Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan and Silver, the same firm that has represented the coalition for the last three years.

Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan and Silver has offices in Annapolis, Baltimore County and Washington, D.C., according to the company's Web site.

The coalition is made up of the City of Hagerstown, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Washington County, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Hagerstown Committee, the Washington County Free Library, Washington County Public Schools and the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF.

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Poffenberger said he would ask the members of the coalition to contribute a total of $38,999.

The coalition recently developed the following agenda for Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan and Silver to follow in Annapolis:

  • Seek state funding to help pay the cost to expand the Washington County Free Library. Poffenberger said the coalition would like the state to contribute 58 percent of the project's $18 million cost.

  • Convince the General Assembly to create incentives that would make it easier to redevelop existing and underused infrastructures.

  • Search for opportunities that would make Washington County more attractive to businesses and biotech companies.

  • Keep the coalition apprised of legislation that could provide state funding or other benefits to the area.

    Poffenberger said Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan and Silver helped the coalition earlier this year by discovering that funding for the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown was in danger of being cut.

    In March, some members of the General Assembly proposed taking away $2.1 million in USM-H funding for 2009. After some political wrangling, $2 million of that money was saved.

    "We found out about (the potential cuts) because of our lobbyist," Poffenberger said. "We need someone on the ground that knows the issues."

    During the council's Tuesday work session, a majority of the five members said they would vote to contribute $5,000.

    Alesia D. Parson-McBean said she would support contributing $3,000 -- the same amount the city gave last year.

    Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she needed more time to absorb the information.

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