City to hire lobbyist for
By TIMOTHY COX
ST. MARYS — The city plans to spend up to $25,000 to hire
a professional lobbyist to schmooze with movers and shakers
in Washington, D.C.
St. Marys City Council members authorized the deal Monday, hoping
the extra pull in the nation’s capital can land them some
federal money to deal with major sewer infrastructure issues.
The city is under Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
findings and orders to fix its sewage system to eliminate overflows
into surrounding waterways. City officials have conceded that
a new sewage plant likely would be necessary to meet the EPA’s
John Ditsin, an attorney and professional lobbyist from Rocky
River in Northeast Ohio, has earned a reputation as someone
who can successfully get things done inside the Beltway, Safety
Service Director Mike Weadock said. Ditsin has successfully
secured more than $14 million for his clients, although his
services come with no guarantees, Weadock said.
A proposal for services submitted by Ditsin calls for the cost
of his services to not exceed $25,000, including his pay and
additional expenses. His hourly rate is $175.
Ditsin represented the city as an attorney during negotiations
on its last sewer plant permit and city officials feel comfortable
with him, Weadock said. It will now be Ditsin’s job to
help the city seek out money to help with meeting EPA mandates
on sewer discharges into the St. Marys River and Miami-Erie
The city has 10 years to fully comply with the EPA’s orders
even though the new sewer permit runs only though 2006. The
sweeping state orders call for a litany of improvements, including
updating the collection system and replacing the sewage plant,
which alone could cost $8 million or more.
“We can use every nickel we can get our hands on,”
council President Dan Hoelscher said.
Weadock reasoned that St. Marys taxpayers sent the money to
Washington, so the city should make every effort to get as much
of it back as possible.
“Washington works in strange and mysterious ways,”
Weadock said. “There are pots of money available if you
can be there at the right time and meet the right people.”
Ditsin will travel to Washington with wastewater Superintendent
Dave Sprague, and possibly Weadock, to apply his know-how in
Washington’s inner circles. The group is hoping to get
face time with Ohio’s U.S. Senators, Mike DeWine and George
Voinovich, and other administrative and congressional leaders,
“We just want to influence that money in our direction.
That’s how Washington works,” Weadock said.
In other business Monday, council members passed a resolution
honoring resident Douglas Brookhart for his long-time service
to the West Ohio Rail Authority. Brookhart was a charter member
of the group formed about 17 years ago to keep the railroad
alive in western Auglaize County.
Brookhart said when the group was formed, there was talk of
the railroad line between St. Marys and Minster being abandoned.
Today, though, it remains an important part of the local industrial
base, he said.
“We’re very fortunate in the community to still
have a viable railroad,” Brookhart said.