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WJBD - Local News - Centralia City Council Approves Agreement with Lobbying Firm

The Cast of the Centralia Cultural Society's upcoming production of 'Hairspray' fills the Centralia City Council Chambers as Honorary Director Keith Shaw has a day proclaimed in his honor.

Centralia City Council Approves Agreement with Lobbying Firm

By Rob Sussman, WJBD News

The Centralia City Council approved an agreement with the Torricelli Lobbying and Consulting firm during a meeting on Monday Evening, agreeing to pay the firm $40,000 a year for its services. The firm will be tasked with working with the city to obtain grants and update staff on legislative issues as well as seek grant funding for projects  that would otherwise require tax increases. Jeff Torricelli, the owner of the firm, was a former member of the EMS Midwest, LLC consulting group, and began his own firm this year. The city signed a similar agreement with EMS Midwest in 2012.

The move was not without scrutiny, as several members of the public voiced their concerns about paying the firm when the city could be using the money to restore the City's labor force, which was cut by 10 people over the last year due to budget constraints.

Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby responded directly to critics.

"One thing this council is trying to do is more with less. The money being spent and the efforts being done mean we're doing a lot more with a lot less" Ashby said before directly addressing a resident's complaint about how there are not enough stores on the east side of Centralia, saying "So to say this isn't money well spent, I question what you're talking about. At the same time you asking why [there aren't more stores]. Well, you gotta have jobs in the community for people to spend money in stores."

Ashby said that the agreement will help improve the image of Centralia.

"We have to improve the image of Centralia, thats why we started the image committee. We gotta get people back to Centralia and show them its a safe community, and give them a better perception then what they heard about five or six years ago" Ashby said.

The city also approved the resurfacing of South Pleasant from McCord Street to Frazier Avenue.  The Illinois Department of Transportation is providing an $80,000 grant for the project. 

The council also approved the purchase of the vacant property located on 821 S Oak Street in Centralia from the Marion County Trustee in order to tear down the substandard home that exists on the property. Councilman David Sauer said that while  he does not think the city government should be in the real estate business, that the city should do everything it can to deal with the large amount of abandoned homes in the City.

The council also declared, in front of the entire cast of the Centralia Cultural Society's production of "Hairspray",  that September 27th will be "Keith Shaw Day". Keith Shaw is a Centralia Native and Class of 1979 Centralia High School Graduate who went on to a career in Theater in New York City, designing sets and wardrobes for several broadway shows. His first performance was at the Centralia Cultural Society. Shaw donated several pieces of wardrobe to the cast and was made an honorary director.

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