Twisting arms in Washington, D.C. to protect Rock Island Arsenal jobs, programs gets more expensive

The cost of twisting arms in Washington, D.C. to support Rock Island Arsenal jobs and interests just got a lot more expensive.

Local governments have been paying $125,000 annually to beltway lobbyist Hurt, Norton and Associates to keep an eye on government agencies and proposed legislation which might impact Arsenal employment and operations.

With the intent of "going on offense rather than playing defense," the Bi-State Regional Commission Wednesday (2/22) hired a new firm – The Roosevelt Group – for $240,000 a year, or nearly double the previous contract.

The commission administers the contract on behalf of local governments in the Quad Cities region with each community contributing a portion of the cost based on population.

For Bettendorf, the annual amount is $17,400. Bettendorf also pays another Washington, D.C. firm nearly $22,000 a year to lobby on behalf of the city. In recent years the legislative focus has been on the I-74 bridge project.

Despite the doubling of the lobbying cost, local communities won't pay any more than their current share, at least this year. That's because the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group (RIADG) will pick up the additional amount, according to Bi-State officials.

The Arsenal development group having a greater stake and say in the lobbying efforts in Washington isn't hard to understand. RIADG this September is facing expiration of its authority to lease out unused office, manufacturing and warehouse space on the island.

Despite efforts by Iowa and Illinois congressional delegations over the past four years, legislation to extend the leasing authority hasn't been successful.

The special bill authorizing the leasing arrangement, called the Arsenal Support Program Initiative (ASPI), expired in 2012, but the Arsenal development group was able to get a 5-year contract extension just before the bill's sunset.

Last August, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley tried unsuccessfully to add an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to re-authorize the program.

The Arsenal development group rents out space to 23 tenants, according to its annual report to Bi-State. It isn't clear what will happen with those leases when the program authorization expires in September.

The private non-profit organization's most recent financial report (12-months ended September 2015), shows RIADG had net rental income of $238,000, expenses of $281,000 for a net loss of $43,000.

The Arsenal development group is overseen by a board comprised of Bi-State members, local elected officials and business representatives, and has a paid full-time site manager and a paid part-time program director.

CLICK HERE to download RIADG's most recent financial report.

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