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The Sanpete Messenger

Ephraim expects lobbying to pay off

Ephraim expects lobbying to pay off

 

By Suzanne Dean

Publisher

8-18-2016

 

EPHRAIM—The Ephraim City Council has approved a contract under which the city will pay $5,000 per month to a Washington, D.C. firm for lobbying and grant writing.

At a meeting in late July, the council approved the contract with the Ferguson Group, a lobbying firm that has been in business 30 years and specializes in “securing policy and regulatory changes, federal funding (and) grants” for local governments.

Brant Hanson, city manager, said the Ferguson Group already helped the city and the Ephraim Irrigation Co. get $1 million to fix the Ephraim Tunnel.

And Hanson said he believes the Ferguson Group can help Ephraim get many other grants it wouldn’t get otherwise because the firm can write proposals that city staff don’t have time or expertise to prepare as well as make direct contacts with funding agencies once the proposals are submitted.

The contract stipulates that beside the $5,000 retainer, the city will pay some “expenses” for the firm.

City Manager Brant Hanson said only expense would be for the lobbying firm staff person assigned to Ephraim to make one visit to the city.

Sending a representative to Ephraim gives the Ferguson Group “a chance to get a feel for our town and really present that as they advocate for us,” Mayor Richard Squire told the council.

“So do we have a goal in mind of what we’re looking for from these guys?” Councilman Todd Alder asked in the council meeting.

Hanson said the staff was putting together a list of projects for which the city hopes to get federal grants.

At the top of the list is $2 million from the Army Corps of Engineers for a new municipal water well. The Ferguson Group is already working on that.

The Ferguson Group also helped Ephraim prepare a proposal to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for $100,000 under what is known as the SAFER program. (The acronym stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response). If approved, the grant would help Ephraim bring on a paid, full-time fire chief. No matching funds are required under the SAFER program.

In the future, the city hopes to get help from the Ferguson Group to apply for more funding from FEMA for fire equipment.

Later this year, Hanson said, the city might look into a grant from the U.S. Justice Department under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

The plan is to apply for $105,000 to $110,000 in federal funds, and put up about $200,000 in city funds, which would enable the city to bring on one additional police officer and pay his salary for three years.

The COPS program has been in operating since 1994. Since then, according to a report, the program has made grants totaling $14 billion to put 125,000 officers on the street in 13,000 police departments, large and small.

Council members also wanted to know if the Ferguson Group might be able to help find finds for restoration of the Hansen House, a city-owned museum house in Pioneer Park; and the Bishop’s Storehouse, the Ephraim Co-op and the Granary Arts Center buildings, all near Main Street and College Avenue.

“Historical restoration funds, absolutely,” Hanson said. “We already had conversations (with the Ferguson Group) about that (the Hansen House) as well as the Bishop’s Storehouse. Those are the two we’re really looking at.”

Both structures are 100 percent city-owned, Hanson said. In contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an ownership interest in the Co-op and Granary Arts buildings.

“We own them, but it’s not clean title,” Hanson said. He recommended against spending any money on the two historic buildings until the city can get 100 percent clear title.

Councilman Alma Lund said he had talked with people connected with the church. “It’s looking pretty positive that the church will relinquish their interest,” he said. But, he said, church has a long process for making and implementing such decisions.

Later in the meeting, Chad Parry, public works director, said water consumption combined with continuing drought are “really putting pressure” on the city water supply.

Most of the time, water from mountain streams that runs into water tanks on the east bench takes care of the city’s needs. But in the summer, when people are watering lawns, the city sometimes has to draw on a municipal well in the west central part of town.

“We’ve had to run the well,” Parry said. “This is the earliest I remember we’ve had to use the well for backup.” And he said the water table the well draws from has dropped.

Parry said if the pattern continues next year, Ephraim might have to impose watering restrictions.