Commissioners turn down lobbyist offer for new water money

YERINGTON - Leaving the door open for future consideration, Lyon County Commissioners made no decision last week on whether to spend $60,000 for a Washington, D.C. water lobbyist.

The Furman Group, represented by Harold Furman II, said his firm would give Lyon County an upper hand in competing for a share of $25 million allocated by Congress, within the Water Resource Development Act of 1999, for rural Nevada water projects.

This money will go to the agencies most aggressive in seeking funds," Furman said. "You need to demonstrate to Congress where the real needs exist. We think a case can effectively be made for Lyon County. Our job is to see they (other agencies) don't get in your way."

Speaking in support of the proposal, Commissioner David Fulstone pointed out the county's water needs and Furman's experience in Washington, D.C.

"It behooves us, with problems in Mound House and other areas, to look into this program. If money is available, we would be remiss not to pursue it," Fulstone said. "It is a fact of life in government, there are competitive funds in Washington. This is the way to do it. He (Furman) knows how the system works back there."

Others were not as supportive, however.

Commissioner LeRoy Goodman did not want to allocate funding to a project not in the current budget.

"Maybe this is something we can look at in the next budget. I do not like looking at spending $60,00 that has not bee appropriated," Goodman said.

Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill took issue with the idea of paying to compete for funds already designated to rural Nevada.

"I don't like the concept of those who can afford a lobbyist will get the money. I don't think it was the intent of this bill," Hunewill stated.

According to Furman, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees decide how the money will be allocated, with Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Jim Gibbons having considerable say on how it is distributed throughout the state. The Army Corps of Engineers will act as the pass through agency, but will have no say in how the funding is to be spent.

Citing Lyon County's past success in acquiring water project funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency and stating the county did need to pursue professional help in securing funding, Commissioner Bob Milz expressed concern with the Corps of Engineers involvement.

"They have never implemented a program like this before. I have a great deal of confidence in Rural Development," Milz said. "After finding out how this is going to be implemented, I lost confidence in it."

The board voted 3-2 to continue discussion on the proposal at a future meeting and directed county staff to have information available at that time on which projects would need funding. Commissioners Hunewill and Goodman voted in opposition.


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