Lobbying efforts continue on nuclear issueRed Wing City Council will set aside $50,000 in 2011 for lobbying expenses at the state Capitol.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing City Council will set aside $50,000 in 2011 for lobbying expenses at the state Capitol.
On Monday, council approved a contract with the lobbying firm Flaherty and Hood, who will represent Red Wing in St. Paul on nuclear issues.
"As much as I hate to spend the money, I've come to believe this is an issue we have to address for the future of Red Wing," Council member Dan Bender said.
City officials want state lawmakers to hear their concerns over the possibility that Red Wing, and other cities that house nuclear power plants, could become long-term storage sights for radioactive waste. While the federal government is responsible for removing spent fuel rods, city officials say they fear it will not fulfill its promise.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of the contract. Council President Mike Schultz was the lone dissenter.
Schultz said he didn't object to the contract but was upset Monticello, Minn., also didn't sign with Flaherty and Hood.
Last year Monticello, which houses a nuclear power plant, helped Red Wing pay for Flaherty and Hood's lobbying effort. This year Monticello informed Red Wing it couldn't spare the money, said Red Wing Finance Director Marshall Hallock.
City Council member-elect Peggy Rehder also spoke in opposition to the contract.
"I really wonder about that amount of money," she told the council Monday.
Rehder said, while not required, bidding the contract out to other lobbying firms would have been prudent and could have reduced the city's bottom line. She is a former lobbyist.
Council member Lisa Bayley said the city decided to stay with Flaherty and Hood because the firm has a head start on the issue.
"They already have the in-roads," she said.
According to a city memorandum, Red Wing wants the firm to concentrate on a bill that focuses on the long-term storage issue.
"The city of Red Wing will be pursuing legislation in 2011 that aims to have the state determine the long-term city, state and ratepayer costs of keeping nuclear waste in Minnesota should the federal government continue to fail to meet its obligations," Flaherty and Hood attorney Joe Sullivan said in a statement to the R-E.
The bill would be similar to one it pushed last year, Sullivan said. That bill had bipartisan support, according to city officials. It died on the vine, however, languishing in committee as lawmakers adjourned.