BRADENTON - The Manatee County Commission on Tuesday voted 6-1 to amend its contract with a lobbying group in Washington, D.C. Commissioner Joe McClash dissented.
The current agreement with the 21st Century Group is for $14,416 a month, and the motion was to pay the group $8,500 a month for 24 months for federal legislative services.
Commissioner Donna Hayes said she felt the money was well spent, and had no hesitation in supporting the motion.
"There's a great difference between going to Washington and going to Tallahassee," she said, and the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Planning Organization both benefit by the contacts in the nation's capital.
"If they can just bring in one project, that hundred thousand dollars has been paid for," Hayes said. "We've had very positive responses. We go meet with these folks, which is normally something we can't get into."
McClash said that the county should look into more companies that might have the relevant experience in transportation issues.
"Nothing against 21st Century Group, but there might be other firms out there with more experience dealing with transportation reauthorization bills for similar dollars," he said.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the 21st Century Group, which is led by a former congressman, gets the county into places.
"I know last year when we went to Washington, Commissioner McClash made the comment that he thought it was a waste of our time, and then we got back $1.7 million for the beach renourishment after our lobbyist got us in the Pentagon with Secretary Woodley," she said. "We met with 16 senators or congressmen in two days, and that was all because of the president of the group.
"If we're giving them more work, they deserve to be paid."
McClash noted that while the company did a good job with Wares Creek and the Manatee Agricultural Reuse System (MARS), he was still unsure about their transportation skills.
"From the standpoint of transportation, I don't know if they're the best firm,and that's what I'm concerned about," he said. "I would have like to have seen another firm to compare their credentials to."
Commission chairman Gwendolyn Brown closed the discussion by noting, "If they don't have the experience, they definitely know where to go find it."
The commission on Tuesday also saw a presentation on carbon monoxide detectors from the Firefighter Tech Prep team at Manatee Technical Institute, and approved proclamations for National Homeownership Month (June 2009) and Florida Women in Government Week (June 15-19, 2009).
The commission also approved 7-0 a change to a zoning ordinance for Northwest Sector (PDMU-05-19(Z)(G)(R) to delete a minimum unit size of 1,200 square feet for single-family detached residences.
In the consent agenda on Tuesday, the commission voted 7-0 to approve a number of items, including:
A settlement with Cynthia Theresa Hammonds and Cleveland Junior Hammonds on an eminent domain issue.
Executing Amendment 2 to agreement with Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee Inc.
Adopting Resolution R-09-134 and R-09-135 to authorize acceptance of agreements from West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging Inc. on Alzheimer's Disease Initiative and Community Care for the Elderly.
Executing Amendment 2 to agreement with Manatee Glens Corporation on DUI Court Program.
Adopting Resolution R-09-133 authorizing acceptance of agreement from West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging Inc.
Adopting Resolution R-09-124 authorizing submission and acceptance of Edward Byrne Memorial JAG under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Adopting Resolution R-09-137 authorizing chairman to sign a Joint Participation Agreement for transit projects from Florida Department of Transportation.
Adopting Resolution R-09-138 authorizing chairman to execute Trip and Equipment Grant application agreement with Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged.
Executing Work Assignment 1 with HDR Engineering, Inc., for design of 44th Avenue East from 30th Street East to 45th Street East.
Executing a contract with the State Department of Corrections for deployment of inmate work squads for the Natural Resources Department.
Adopting Resolution R-09-127 authorizing chairman to execute Local Agency Program agreement with Florida Department of Transportation for the resurfacing of University Parkway from U.S. 301 to I-75.
Accepting FY 2009-10 Tentative Budget for the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority and approve membership contribution and assessment from Manatee County to provide administrative support for the Water Planning Alliance, provide funding for Authority Governance and Financial Feasibility Study.
Donating six rain barrel kits to School District of Manatee County for use at the G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School.