Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 11, 2013

Water Board: $160K to public relations firm was money well spent

Niagara Gazette — That Niagara Falls Water Board has been lobbying Albany on natural gas drilling, water treatment and capital grants for the last three years.

The board has paid e3communications, a public relations and lobbying firm based in Buffalo, $160,000 since the beginning of 2009 to work with state lawmakers in Albany, according to lobbyist registration filings submitted to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a state entity that oversees lobbying activities.

The company also had a contract to do public relations work for the board at a rate of $2,000 a month. All contracts were awarded through an open bidding process, according to documents provided to the Gazette by the board.

The board voted to

discontinue its relationship with e3communications in May.

Earl Wells, owner of the firm, was one of the lobbyists working in Albany on behalf of the water board. He said his work helped the board stay informed on funding opportunities and laws that would have an impact on the utility’s operations or budget.

Paul Drof, the executive director of the water board, said the company also informed on changes in laws and state policies on issues related to the utility — like natural gas drilling and the treatment of wastewater from the process.

“They provide us with funding opportunities,” Drof said. “ They provide us with an inroad with the government and make us aware of changes in legislation that may affect us and how we do our business.”

Drof said the company also sent information in the opposite direction, letting lawmakers know how changes in legislation might effect the utility’s bottom line.

“If we have to pay more or do more testing it’s reflected in the rates that we have to give to our users,” Drof said.

The firm ultimately pulled in and saved the utility much more money than it was paid by securing government grants and providing information that led to cost-saving decisions, Drof said.

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