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Lobbyist: City could get $4.1 million

January 06, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A lobbyist working on behalf of the City of Hagerstown told the mayor and City Council on Tuesday that the city could be awarded about $4.1 million in federal funding this year.

Kareem D. Murphy of The Ferguson Group said during a City Council work session that about $4 million of the money -- if approved by Congress later this month -- would be earmarked to help pay for a project to extend Professional Court by constructing a bridge over Antietam Creek. The remaining $100,000 would be used to assist minority- and woman-owned businesses, he said.

There is a chance that the city could receive more federal dollars if Congress passes a $675 billion to $775 billion economic stimulus plan later this year, Murphy said. Some of that money would be used to fund roads and other infrastructure projects.

"The prospects look significantly better," Murphy said. "We're very excited about the opportunities here."

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In January 2008, the council hired The Ferguson Group to represent the city's interests in Washington, D.C., at a monthly cost ranging from $7,500 to $8,500. That fee will increase to $9,000 per month if the council decides to retain The Ferguson Group's services after Jan. 15.

Last year, the council directed The Ferguson Group to pursue about $35 million in federal funding to help the city pay for the two aforementioned projects and the following others:

o $24 million to rehabilitate the city's water and wastewater collection system.

o $4.72 million to extend Eastern Boulevard

o $1 million for water system upgrades

o $900,000 to purchase radio equipment

o $850,000 to extend Haven Road

o $150,000 to help establish the Doleman Black Heritage Museum

Four of the five members of the City Council said after the work session -- Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer declined to comment -- that they thought The Ferguson Group's presentation seemed positive, even though the city's $100,000 investment in the lobbying firm hasn't produced tangible results to this point.

"If we really get a $4.1 million return on our money ... It will be a good investment," Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said. "I think it's important as ever to have (a lobbyist) down there."

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said The Ferguson Group has worked "very hard" on Capitol Hill to help the city.

What remains to be seen, however, is the amount of money that "the big government is going to give out," she said.

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