11/13/08 — City signs contract for help lobbying

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City signs contract for help lobbying

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 13, 2008 1:46 PM

City Manager Joe Huffman acted last week on a council recommendation to renew the city's contract with the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Marlowe & Co.

The city hired the firm in 2007 to pursue federal funding for three programs: The revitalization of Union Station, repairing the water treatment plant and building the new Community Recreation Center.

Howard Marlowe, president of the firm, and his associates are lobbying on the city's behalf for $1 million for water treatment plant repairs to be included in the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.

They also are asking for $2 million for the Community Recreation Center and $500,000 for Union Station repairs to be included in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

While the Senate has included the Union Station funding in its version of the THUD bill, neither chamber has approved the bills and there are no guarantees that two of the three projects will even appear in the final versions.

"In short, there has been no final decision on this project by either chamber of Congress," Marlowe said.

It does appear likely that Goldsboro will eventually receive the Union Station funding, he added.

Representatives from the firm ap-proached the city last year, Huffman said.

"They had been talking with us two or three times and offered their service," he said. "I was told by a lot of folks they were very successful."

After seeing a presentation from Marlowe & Co., the council decided to "give them a chance, see what they can do," Huffman said.

The council decided to go forward with the contract renewal based on the firm's cost-effective performance.

The new contract, valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2009, specifies that the city will pay the company $3,600 each month for a total expenditure of $43,200 by the end of next year.

The contract stipulates that the payment is for "services performed by Marlowe & Company to secure funding for economic development and any other issues identified by the City and agreed to by Marlowe & Company."

Many North Carolina cities are previous or current clients of the firm. Asheboro, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Creedmoor, Topsail Beach and Havelock have all contracted with the company.

Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Robert Simpson said the town council board hired Marlowe & Co. in 2005 because of the firm's strong background in coastal issues.

"We felt like we had to have a voice in Washington," Simpson said.

That voice cost the town of Wrightsville Beach $13,000 over a one-year period and resulted in a $3.8 million beach renourishment project. Sixty-five percent of the project was funded by the federal government, while the rest came from state and local sources.

The town of Havelock hired Marlowe & Co. to address problems with the city's waste water treatment system, ballfield lights and traffic congestion on U.S. Highway 70 around the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

"One of the results has been very favorable," Havelock City Manager Jim Freeman said.

The Havelock City Council, however, received some heat about the decision to hire the lobbyists, Freeman said.

"Yes, maybe we should have made the contacts ourselves, but it was very helpful" to have Marlowe & Co. make the connections, he said.

The firm was able to secure $396,000 in federal funding for a study examining the feasibility of building an overpass to relieve the heavy traffic snarls in Havelock.

All total, the company secured about $144.8 million in earmarks for its clients in 2006.

Despite the firm's success stories, the new administration could bring changes to the practice of lobbying.

"Given the new president and his view on lobbyists, I'm not sure how effective that will be in the coming years," Simpson said.

And, Marlowe added, the election itself might have been a factor in the bills' delay.

"Although the funding is potentially there, due to election year politics the pace in Washington has slowed significantly," he wrote to Huffman.

The Senate will resume legislative business on Monday. The House has adjourned for the year and will reconvene on Jan. 3, 2009.