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City debating whether to stick with lobbying firm

October 20, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- As city officials ponder whether to stick with a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, they looked at federal money starting to flow toward Hagerstown.

The city is in line for $780,000 for fiscal year 2009 and possibly more than $1 million for fiscal year 2010, according to a summary prepared by The Ferguson Group, the lobbying firm.

The Hagerstown City Council is figuring out whether to keep paying The Ferguson Group as a federal advocate. A contract will expire in January.

The city hired the firm in early 2008. After six months, Hagerstown hadn't received any commitments of federal money.

However, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said in June 2008 that it was too early to conclude if the lobbying was successful.

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Kareem D. Murphy told the council on Tuesday that it commonly takes at least a year to see tangible results.

So far, the city has paid The Ferguson Group $184,000 in retainers since January 2008, according to the firm's summary.

Based on $780,000 in federal money secured for the city in fiscal year 2009, the return on investment would be about 4.2, meaning the city is getting back more than four times as much as it is spending.

That includes $300,000 for a water system upgrade, $380,000 for Eastern Boulevard improvements and $100,000 for a minority- and women-owned business development project.

Funding for fiscal year 2010 is undecided, but Murphy said Hagerstown is in the running for more than $1 million.

The city asked for $900,000 for police radio equipment. The Senate version of an appropriations bill has $900,000. The House version has $750,000.

The city also asked for $150,000 for a Doleman black history museum. The money is in a Senate bill, but not in a House bill.

The fiscal year 2010 bills aren't final.

If police radio or museum money is approved, the city's return on investment would be greater than 9, the summary says. That means the city would get back more than nine times what it spent.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II noted that the city hasn't received any money from either fiscal year. But Zimmerman said fiscal year 2009 money has been committed and set aside.

The city is part of a separate lobbying coalition with Washington County, the school board and business groups, focusing on state issues.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the county should help pay for The Ferguson Group, too, since it will benefit from the Eastern Boulevard funding.

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