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Lobbyist hired to aid city agenda

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Greenwood is hiring a lobbyist to persuade state lawmakers to help the city on a variety of issues, including possibly getting more money for road projects.

This week, the city hired Brian Burdick, attorney with law firm Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis. Greenwood has hired lobbyists in the past, but this time the lobbyist won’t be looking for funding for a specific project.

Greenwood is paying the lobbyist $5,000 per month for six months with money from the city general fund. Burdick will track what happens during the legislative session and watch for grants and anything else that would help the city. He also could represent Greenwood on issues where the city disagrees with statewide interest groups, city council members said.

How often Burdick will report to the city and what his day-to-day duties will be hasn’t been decided, Greenwood City Council member Tim McLaughlin said. But he said having a person keeping track of bills and building relationships with lawmakers outside Johnson County will benefit the city.

“It’s a completely different level of government up there. We’re kind of out of the loop in terms of things that might be available,” McLaughlin said.

State lawmakers who represent and live in Johnson County have helped the city greatly, but having a broader look at what’s happening at the state level could give Greenwood better opportunities for getting new projects or grants, he said.

“The more people we know, the chances are better for us to bring something back to Greenwood,” he said.

The city could use money for the east-west corridor planned for the county, council member Brent Corey said. The project includes widening Worthsville Road, but the city doesn’t have funding for all phases of the work, he said.

Burdick also will represent the city on issues where Greenwood disagrees with the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, a statewide group that represents cities and towns, council president David Hopper said.

The city has hired lobbyists in the past to seek state and federal funding for local projects, such as the Interstate 65 exit at Worthsville Road. The city successfully got state money for the project and is paying $11 million for the interchange while the state is paying at least that much.

Construction of the new entrance to the city is slated to start at the end of this year or early in 2015. Greenwood annexed 1,800 acres of land, much of it farm property, around the future interchange, with the expectation that it will be developed and the city will be able to guide construction in the area.

The lobbyist was integral to getting the funding and the project timeline for the interchange, Corey said.

“I know for a fact that the interchange wouldn’t be happening as soon as it is now,” he said.

A lobbyist also helped the city get $1.1 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to repair and lengthen the city airport’s runway in 2012. That lobbyist, also from Barnes & Thornburg, flew Mayor Mark Myers to Washington and arranged to have him meet with Indiana congressmen.

The visit paid off within days, when the FAA approved a runway-lengthening project that Greenwood had been pursuing for years.

Burdick will lobby only at the state level. He will pursue state grant money and could push, for example, for the city to get approval to vote on a local food and beverage tax, Hopper said.

The contract, which is with Barnes & Thornburg, would have to be renewed annually, if the city council chooses. Burdick will be the city’s primary lobbyist for the city, but other attorneys from the firm may lobby for Greenwood, as well, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

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