In a 4-1 vote, the city commission OK’d a six-month contract with a lobbying service at Monday’s meeting.
Per the agreement, the city will pay Commonwealth Alliances LLC, a Frankfort-based lobby firm with 70+ years of bi-partisan political and government relations experience, $3,000 per month from now through April. The total cost to the city is $18,000 and City Manager Laura Hagg told leaders the contract can be canceled with 30 days notice.
The lobbyists will be tasked with developing and expanding relationships with state legislators and supporting the work of city leaders.
Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge, who cast the lone dissenting vote, disagreed with the third priority for the lobbying firm — the Broadway Bridge project.
“I don’t believe that the Broadway Bridge should be one of the focal points right now,” she said. “Given the circumstances of our city and economic development, we need to push forward and continue to bring economic development projects to Frankfort, filling these buildings that are empty and getting Parcels B and C going in the right direction.”
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet gave the city several months to figure out whether to take over the bridge or have it demolished by the state. That deadline passed on April 30, but local advocates have been trying to come up with a feasible plan to save the historical structure.
In May, a KYTC spokesperson told The State Journal that demolishing the Broadway Bridge is the “preferred alternative.”
“Following the aforementioned deadline, the Cabinet will make a selection of the Preferred Alternative,” Stephanie Caros, KYTC District 5 spokesperson, wrote in an email to the newspaper. “Following this selection, the Section 106 process will continue with a final meeting of the Consulting Parties to discuss Mitigation of Effects of the Preferred Alternative. Once complete, the Cabinet will begin collaboration with FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) to produce a full section 4f statement and develop documentation of its decision to satisfy requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Once these procedural items are complete and relevant approvals/permits are in place, the project will be let for a construction contract.”
In 2020, KYTC partnered with the city to foot the bill for a feasibility study on the bridge, which has been closed to vehicular traffic for 28 years. The study found the bridge was in a state of “imminent failure.”
“We have so many projects going on,” Waldridge remarked. “I don’t think taxpayers should pay for lobbyists to advocate for the Broadway Bridge.”
On Monday night, commissioner Kyle Thompson said there are both benefits and detriments to the Broadway Bridge project.
“I think it would benefit the city to open both sides of the river there and having that walking bridge,” he explained.
Thompson was also in favor of hiring the lobbying firm.
“There’s not enough daylight for what we need to get done and anybody that’s professional and will help us do that, I am all for that help while it’s available,” he added.
Waldridge stated that city leaders should start by engaging, fostering and building relationships with local state representatives before contracting lobbyists.
Mayor Layne Wilkerson also voted for the lobbying firm contract.
“Sometimes it does help to have specific advice on specific projects and who to talk to and when to talk to them,” the mayor said. “Sometimes you need extra surge, and right now, I think Frankfort could use it.”