Despite one city council member’s hope that a $50,000 investment would lead to larger returns for the city of Stephenville, the council learned Tuesday that hiring a lobbyist doesn’t spell immediate success in obtaining federal funding.
The city council voted in February to employ the services of Meyers & Associates, a Washington-based government relations/business consulting firm, and signed a one-year, $50,000 contract. At Tuesday’s meeting, the firm’s president, Larry D. Meyers, addressed the council.
Meyers said much of the firm’s work initially focused on getting assistance for the city’s East Side Sewer Project. Despite talks with Congressman John Carter and staffers in the office of senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn, the funding has been denied.
“We will make the request again next year if the city desires,” Meyers said.
Meyers explained that the reduction in earmarks has changed the way the 27-year-old firm and other lobbyists do their jobs. An earmark is a legislative provision that allocates existing spending for specific purposes. He said earmarks are about half the amount seen in previous years and also said the Texas A&M University System, which the firm also represents, has experienced an 18 percent reduction in funding.
“We are now focused on competitive grants,” Meyers said.
City Administrator Mark Kaiser said Wednesday that despite the fact that the firm has not delivered a chunk of change to city coffers, it has assisted the city in maintaining contacts with representatives in Washington.
“They have assisted us through their day-to-day involvement at those levels (congress and senate). They are making us aware of opportunities that we might qualify for based on interests and needs I have provided,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser knows all too well the waiting game involved with obtaining funding. Several recent examples include $350,000 awarded to the city under the Texas Community Block Grant Program to expand the city’s sewer system to residents on College Farm Road. The city first applied for the grant six years ago.
Meanwhile, the council approved a number of issues forwarded by various council committees including a 20-year franchise agreement with Oncor Electric Delivery; the relocation and redesign of the city’s T-ball complex; and the application by the Erath County Historical Commission for a historical marker at the Erath Arches, located at 500 W. Washington Street.
In addition, the council approved a city-wide loitering ordinance and amended a parking ordinance. The parking ordinance amendments will restrict parking on Mason and Shirley streets. Following a petition signed by affected residents, the council compromised to restrict parking in the 100-400 blocks of North Dale Drive to the west side only. Once parking signs are installed, Police Chief Roy Halsell said the new restrictions will be enforced.