January 18, 2018 10:58:53 AM
Oktibbeha County is looking into a contract with a Jackson-based consulting and lobbying firm in the hopes of securing a stronger voice to seek state and federal funding.
On Tuesday, Arnie Hederman, a partner with Clearwater Group, LLC went before the board to talk about his firm's services. Clearwater, according to information distributed to supervisors, specializes in federal, state and local government relations, as well as fundraising, political consulting, business development and grassroots advocacy.
Austin Barbour and Michael Goode are also partners with the firm.
Hederman said the firm could help, for example, in seeking funds for road projects.
"Right now at the federal level they're looking at diverting some of these funds the rural development authority -- about 20 percent of the money," Hederman said. "The reason they're doing that is the local rural development authority guy can control these funds. So you don't have to go all the way to the federal level consistently trying to get these. We now have the option to go there."
County supervisors unanimously approved a contract with the firm, pending revisions County Administrator Emily Garrard and attorney Jack Brown will likely make to one provided at the meeting.
Board President Orlando Trainer said the exact cost of the contract remains to be seen, based on final details, but estimated it could cost $6,000 to $7,000 per month - which would amount to between $72,000 and $84,000 annually.
Still, he said he feels Clearwater's connections could prove useful for Oktibbeha County.
"You need someone who has contacts, connections and relationships who really has the know-how to help find the dollars that you may be eligible for that you may have to compete for," Trainer said. "At the same time, if you don't know about them, you can never compete for them."
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller said she thinks Clearwater can help in a number of areas, such as securing federal funding for roads and repair work on the Oktibbeha County Lake levee.
"Anything that's done, a lot of the time, is about the relationships that you have," Miller said. "Looking at the connections that y'all have directly makes me believe that you could accomplish these goals we're looking to have accomplished."
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he'd support working with the firm for one year. However, he said he wanted to see results for two projects if Clearwater is to work further with the county.
"I'm going to be direct with you -- I want to see the Longview Road project funded. Period," Montgomery said. "It's gone too long that we've not been funded on it. I implore you to go after that money. And the county lake -- those will probably your two top priorities.
"I'll be honest with you, if there's no fruit from that next year, I'm not going to (support a renewal)," he added.
Miller said she'd also expect Clearwater, if a contract is approved, to represent the county in seeking earmarked state and federal funds. She said the same for a federal infrastructure bill, if one passes.
"We want to make sure that we have a representative there that can get Oktibbeha County a fair share," she said. "Again, I think if we don't have somebody sitting there at the table we might get overlooked."
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