Summit County, individual towns consider hiring lobbyist to advocate for I-70 improvements among other initiatives
FRISCO — Summit County and town officials are hopeful a potential agreement with a law firm could give the area a bigger voice in the state and federal legislatures.
Discussions are ongoing between officials in Summit County and a group called Squire Patton Boggs, a law firm offering to serve as a lobbyist for the county’s interests in state and federal affairs.
“They would be working with the contacts they have and the relationships they have to try and advocate for Summit County and its towns in policy changes, funding requests and more,” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “We would work collectively to identify specifically the issues we’d want them to speak on our behalf for.”
Squire Patton Boggs is a global law firm with offices in 19 countries — including in Denver — that promises expertise in law, business and government, according to the group’s website.
Vargo said a representative with the firm approached the county with a proposal this fall, leading to a meeting with town and county officials. While no contract is in place, Vargo said parties on both sides are busy reviewing a scope of work for the agreement and that a deal could be in place by the end of the year. Area towns also are expected to sign onto the deal.
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“We said if we’re going to do this, it should be more of a cooperative approach with the local towns because many of the issues we would want Squire Patton Boggs to advocate on our behalf for would be more regional issues,” Vargo said. “Some of the towns are talking about it. We don’t have an agreement in place, but we’re moving in that direction.”
Vargo said the draft agreement lists a starting date in January. County and town officials also have yet to come out with a list of priorities for the group to pursue, though Vargo noted there already were general agreements on some topics.
Mara Sheldon, Summit County local and senior policy adviser for Squire Patton Boggs, gave a presentation on the proposal to the Dillon Town Council last week, outlining some of the presumptive goals of the partnership. Among the most notable were assisting in infrastructure improvements and repair — specifically improvements to Exit 203 in Frisco and Exit 205 in Silverthorne — helping local governments meet their sustainability goals, providing better workforce housing initiatives and better forest health and wildfire mitigation opportunities.
“Our knowledge and understanding of the county and its goals is pretty extensive,” Sheldon said. “Being a local, I know some of the issues we deal with that the Front Range really doesn’t. … Based on some of our initial discussions, we feel we might be able to be very helpful in particular areas like these.”
If the agreement moves forward, the county will split the cost with each of the participating towns. Vargo noted that the original proposal came with a price tag of $8,000-$10,000 a month, though local governments were hoping to negotiate a lower rate.
“A lot of other counties have folks working and advocating on their behalf, whether it’s on the state level or the federal level,” Vargo said. “And there are significant successes that result from that advocacy, whether it’s a policy change or a funding resource that gets directed toward them.
“We believe an organization like this can have success in getting us additional financial support and getting us elevated on the priority list.”