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Lobbyist: State lawmakers are aware of Willmar's request for $15M to fund treatment plant project

WILLMAR -- All of Minnesota's senators and representatives in Congress are fully aware of Willmar's request for $15 million to help pay for the new wastewater treatment plant and conveyance system, says the city's congressional lobbyist.

Although Congress has authorized but not yet appropriated the $15 million, the most important thing about the request is not the dollar amount but the authorization, said David Turch of David Turch and Associates of Washington D.C.

"So in my experience in two decades in this business, I just want an authorization because then I can play the appropriations process,'' Turch said. "We've exceeded multiple times the authorized amount for projects, so you may or may not be limited to $15 million.''

According to Turch, the outcome of Willmar's request depends on a couple of factors, such as the amount of money that members of subcommittees are allowed to divide themselves for various local projects and possible funds that the city might tap into from a possible national economic stimulus package.

Turch updated the City Council on Monday regarding the status of Willmar's request for wastewater funding assistance. The project is budgeted at $86.2 million.

Council member Steve Gardner told Turch that the council "wouldn't be offended if you came up with more than $15 million.''

Turch said that's not likely to happen in one year.

Turch has been the city's lobbyist since March 2003. Mayor Les Heitke said Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson advised Willmar to hire Turch to help keep better watch on local projects. Heitke said the resources brought to Willmar by Turch "have been very, very strong and very healthy'' for the airport, utilities, juvenile justice and other programs.

The mayor has budgeted $27,000 in 2009 toward payment of Turch's $54,000 annual contract. The other half of the contract is covered by the Municipal Utilities Commission.