For years now, there has been talk about putting in a Young Street bridge to help alleviate traffic on State Street during school hours, giving parents and student drivers two entrances and exits from area. Unfortunately, it is tough to get these little rural projects approved for state funding.
Political veterans Steve Mecham, Eric Isom and Steve Barth have more than 80 years of combined experience in government and public policy. The three make up MIB Partners LLC, a strategic communications, lobbying and consulting firm.
Upon meeting Morgan City Attorney Gary Crane, the trio asked if there would be an interest in their services. Attorney Crane stated most cities have representatives at the legislature that watch out for their interests and opportunities and suggested they attend a council meeting for further discussion.
In late December, the MIB partners attended their first Morgan City Council meeting. Councilman Tony London related that one of his biggest concerns is that no matter who goes to bat for Morgan City, the result always seems to be the same. Funding is denied because the median income in the county is too high.
Barth stated the median income may be high, but mentioned that sometimes telling the whole story in perspective helps funding entities see the needs you have. The issue for the council has always been, it is difficult to know who needs to hear the story and who has the time to sit up on the hill during legislative sessions to make sure the right people hear our story.
Crane aptly noted that these three individuals spend a lot of time at the legislature and are always there to keep an eye open to funding that may be available.
Mayor Ray Little asked about the cost for their services and Barth assured him that they would be willing to sit down and discuss what the city can afford. “It also takes a few years to get your foot in the door,” stated Barth, but seemed optimistic about seeing results a little ways down the road and said, “You have to start somewhere.”
Councilman London agreed, noting that the city had already spent at least 10 years talking about a Young Street bridge and is no further toward reality now than they were at the beginning.
Mayor Little stated there is definitely a need for this type of service, but he is wary because of those who have denied funding in the past because “the rules do not allow it.” Because of this, the mayor met with the group informally to visit the sites so that the MIB partners could get a better feel of the problems that are being caused by the lack of a bridge to connect roadways from the school.
They also talked about a hotel, electrical and sewer projects, Commercial Street, the vacant Depot building that is in the process of being updated to be ADA accessible, vacant UDOT property along with the various businesses who have located here without the city being involved.
Past funding sources were also discussed and the group picked two projects they felt were the most promising: the Young Street Bridge and sewer projects. If the members want to have them help with other projects, they would be willing to contract.
In order to move forward with the bridge project, MIB Partners would require estimated costs and preliminary drawings. It is unknown what this will cost, but it could be $100,000 – $150,000. Councilman Tony London said, “If we are going to ask these guys to go to bat for this, we have to be serious enough about it to get this study done.”
Councilman Eric Turner added that he believes it would be helpful to come back with a more specific number for them to find funding for.
“I think of this as an investment for us,” said Turner. “I can’t see into the future, but I know I don’t have the means, the time or the expertise to go out and get this funding. If MIB can get us there, I think it could really pay off…you just have to know which pocket to dig in.”
It was also suggested that Morgan City participate in a new income level study that involves only city residents in order to give funding entities a better picture of what is going on within the city proper.
The agreement term began this month and will continue through January, 2018.