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City hires lobbying firm for $89K to seek money
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Fleener Richards – a vocal critic of City Hall – believes for his money the Manteca City Council might be better off gambling with $89,000 instead of hiring a lobbying firm to press for federal stimulus funds.

“(You might) as well as take the money and go up to Black Oak Casino and try your luck at the craps table,” Richards said. “It (hiring a lobbyist) is a total gamble.”

City leaders disagreed saying the people who have the final say in distributing the nearing $800 billion in one-time federal stimulus funds - much of which has been earmarked for local government – are bureaucrats at various agencies that lobbying firms have the relationships to access.

The City Council Tuesday approved spending up to $89,000 for a year to hire the Van Scoyc Associations lobbying firm to represent the city in Washington, D.C.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton said over client cities they contacted indicated the firm typically secured 30 to 40 times the amount of their cost.

Pinkerton said in Manteca’s case that could translate into $2.7 million in federal funds if the lobbying firm is successful.

In Manteca, leaders have identified two projects they hope will meet the federal requirement of “shovel ready projects” for stimulus money – a $10 million water main project for South Manteca and freeway interchange work at Union Road and the Highway 120 Bypass that is far along in the design stage. That interchange has a $15 million price tag. There are also potential wastewater-related projects that could benefit.

The $89,000 Manteca is spending on the lobbying firm will not come from the general fund that is facing a deficit of up to $11.3 million in the fiscal year starting July 1.

Instead it will be cobbled together from three restricted accounts dealing with water, sewer, and transportation improvements where growth or users cover the tab. None of that money can be used to cover the general fund costs by law as they have to be spent on the function that they were collected to support.