Let’s lobby

Butte County has decided to get serious about going after federal funding and voted Tuesday to put $80,000 toward that effort. County CAO Paul McIntosh said the money, which will go to the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm The Ferguson Group LLC, should be looked at as an investment.

“There’s money out there. It’s just a matter of going after it in the right manner and being successful,” McIntosh said. “We think this will put us in that position. If it doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t pan out, but we think it has a reasonable chance of panning out.”

The county has worked with lobbying groups in Sacramento for years to try to get favorable legislation passed at the state level, but this is the first time it has tried the tactic at the federal level.

While McIntosh agreed that $80,000 might seem like a large sum, especially for a county that had to cut 149 positions for lack of revenue this year, he said the potential rewards are too great to ignore. Last year, for example, Ferguson was able to help Plumas County secure $5 million in federal funds to go toward various water projects. Butte County would also have been eligible for the same amount, but because it was not aware of the expenditure in time the county had to pass the money on to the South Feather Water and Power Agency.

McIntosh said he did extensive research on lobbying firms and chose Ferguson based on “high marks” from other clients and because it already has several Northstate municipalities as clients and thus has experience with issues pertaining to Butte County. He listed water, roads, homeland security and communication as areas for which the county was hoping to find federal funds.

As part of the proposal, voted on as an item on the consent agenda, county staffers generated a 12-page wish list of projects they’d like to see funded. Ranging from a $40 million request to install sewers around Chico to a $9,000 program to help kids with homework, the list offers a revealing look at what priorities county heads would set if money were no object. The list can be viewed online at www.buttecounty.net/cob/Web%20Agenda%20091404/3.07.pdf.