Wednesday, January 21, 2009

County terminates contract with lobbyist

Move will save county $18,000 in annual fees to Ken Lee

Express Staff Writer

The woeful state of the nation's economy and its impact on the amount of federal money available to states and counties throughout the country have convinced Blaine County officials to cut ties with Washington, D.C., lobbyist Ken Lee.

Lee—a part-time resident of the Wood River Valley whose prior clients include local governments in Utah and Colorado—began working for the county a little over a year ago.

Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said the commission arrived at its decision Tuesday. He said the move will save the county $18,000 in annual fees it had been paying Lee for his services.

"We just don't see it as the right time to have a lobbyist in D.C.," he said.

Schoen said funds from the anticipated national stimulus package being crafted by Congress and newly sworn-in President Barack Obama will be forwarded to the states, which will distribute them. He said that means the county will be discussing their possible share of those funds at the state level, further reducing the need for a federal lobbyist at this time.

Schoen did not rule out rehiring Lee at a future date should the economic situation change and more federal dollars become available.

Last March, the commission discussed several local projects with Lee that could have benefited from an infusion of federal cash that never materialized. They included the costly remodeling of the Old Blaine County Courthouse, a water study by the U.S. Geological Survey to evaluate water resources in the upper Big Wood River and Silver Creek basins, emergency communications and construction of a centralized wastewater treatment facility.

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