Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
In an effort to acquire more state-issued funding for local infrastructure projects, the city of Warrenton in 2022 hired a lobbyist firm in Jefferson City to advocate on behalf of the city. A year later, City Administrator Brandie Walters reported that the experiment yielded less than ideal results. Then city aldermen voted to renew the $40,0o0 lobbying contract.
During the Warrenton Board of Aldermen’s Dec. 20 public meeting, Walters informed aldermen that the city’s 2022 contract with lobbying firm Gamble & Schlemeier had resulted in only partial success. She said the city had been aiming to get $3.1 million in state funding to help with expansion of Warrenton’s sewage treatment plant.
Although there was initially hope that the lobbyists would get the Missouri Legislature to give that money directly to the city, the $3.1 million instead ended up in the hands of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and Warrenton has to apply for that money as a grant, Walters said.
What this means, she explained, is that Warrenton will have to put up matching funds in order to get that money from the state. Walters said city staff have already done what they need to do to apply for the grant, but she called it “unfortunate” that the lobbyist firm wasn’t able to secure a more direct funding source.
So when the contract with the lobbying firm came up for renewal on Dec. 20, and Mayor Eric Schleuter asked Walters whether she would recommend renewing the contract, there was a very long pause. The contract requires an up-front payment of $20,000, with an additional $20,000 paid over the course of a year. The lobbying firm is also owed $15,000 for each project that it successfully gets state funding for.
“I recommend that maybe we go for it for one more year, just to see,” Walter eventually said, commenting that she didn’t want to minimize the $3.1 million that the city could still eventually receive.
Mayor Schleuter commented that the lobbying firm isn’t necessarily to blame for funding changes made late in the budgeting process by state officials.
“My understanding is that even on a lot of stuff that was promised (by the Legislature), a lot of the items got changed. There were over six (projects) in our area that got denied because of changes that were done up at Jeff City,” Schleuter said.
The contract renewal did not get any opposition from the board of aldermen.
“I agree with Brandie’s recommendation,” commented Ward 2 Alderman Steven Cullom. “This was our first year doing it, and like it was said, it was nothing (the lobbyists) did wrong, it was something that the state changed.”
Ward 1 Alderman Larry Corder noted that aldermen consider hiring the lobbying firm to be a cheaper alternative to paying for the amount of city staff time that it would take to successfully seek more money from the state.
Aldermen voted 5-0 to renew the contract for 2023. Ward 1 Alderman Jack Crump was absent.