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Published: Tuesday, 2/23/2010

Perrysburg pleading its case to bring tax funds back home

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Perrysburg Mayor Nelson Evans was to be in the nation's capital today to build support for sewer, road, and safety projects back home.

The mayor's first-ever lobbying trip and City Council's recent decision to hire a Washington lobbyist are part of an attempt to bring some of the taxes that city residents pay to the federal government back to Perrysburg.

After some debate Jan. 19, council voted 4-2 to pay Bridge Government Relations LLC $45,500 to lobby on behalf of the city for federal funding.

"If we can get $200,000 or a million, then it's well worth the investment," Mr. Evans said.

"Everything we've done up to this point hasn't done any good. It helps to have somebody who knows the system and knows the people there and can walk you through the steps it takes to be successful."

Bridge Government Relations was founded by Andrew Beck, a former staffer for the late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort).

City Administrator John Alexander said that in recent years, Perrysburg has applied for a variety of federal funds, including from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but has come up empty-handed.

"We've gotten zero, so we looked at what the potential return on investment is on retaining a representative in Washington and, for a one-year period of time, we believed it would be a valuable initiative," he said.

Council was not unanimous in that belief, though.

Council member Mike Olmstead, who voted no, said he did want to add "one more bureaucratic layer" between taxpayers and the federal government and said he did not think a hired lobbyist would represent Perrysburg the way a council member would.

Councilman Joe Rutherford, who also voted against the measure, said the city shouldn't have to pay a lobbyist.

"The taxpayers and the city of Perrysburg should not need to spend our tax dollars to try to get more tax dollars from the federal government for things that we need," Mr. Rutherford said. "On one hand, yeah, it'd be great if we could spend some money to get a huge amount of money in comparison back, but it just seems like we shouldn't have to do that."

Mr. Evans said that among the priority projects for which the city hopes to get federal funding are the city's ongoing storm and sanitary-sewer separation.

"All of the stuff we've been doing is mandated by the government," he said. "Our residents pay taxes on a regular basis, and it would be nice to get some of that money back to handle some of the projects mandated by the government."

The city also hopes to get federal funds to upgrade its police communications equipment, he said, and to do preliminary work for the eventual reconfiguration of the State Rt. 25/I-475 interchange.

The mayor said Mr. Beck is to give City Council quarterly reports on what he's doing for the city, and council will evaluate at the end of the year whether to renew his contract.

"We know everyone hates earmarks, but that's the way the system is," Mr. Nelson said. "We all pay taxes here and I think everyone would like a chunk of their taxes back, especially with unfunded mandates. ... It's worth a shot."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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