Former state legislator Bob Turner, owner of Rural Issues Consulting: vital eyes and ears of Brown County as he follows the current legislature and state agencies — or a taxpayer-funded lobbyist whose services are not a good deal for the City of Brownwood?
    Those were the two pictures of Turner presented at Tuesday’s meeting of the Brownwood City Council. Mayor Stephen Haynes and other speakers offered words of support, while Julia Taylor, a Brownwood certified public accountant, asked the council to reconsider Turner’s services.
    Council members went on to vote unanimously to renew the city’s portion of Turner’s contract. That put the city’s portion among six entities at $3,666.50 a year, or $7,333 over the two years of the contract. Haynes and council members thanked Taylor for speaking to the council, saying they welcome and encourage debate.
    For the past several years, the city has split the cost of hiring Turner with:
    • City of Early.
    • Brown County.
    • Brown County Water Improvement District.
    • Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce.
    • Brownwood Municipal Development District.
    Haynes said Turner has been hired by the Brown County entities for the past six to eight years. Turner’s primary interest is protecting rural West Texas, Haynes said.
    He said Turner keeps local officials aware of proposed legislation and regulation that could impact Brown County and fights against the ones that would harm the county.
    “What I think we’re retaining him for is to be our eyes and ears to make sure we know … what issues are being proposed and how those things might negatively affect the City of Brownwood, particularly with regard to these unfunded mandates,” Haynes said.
    “I don’t think $3,600 (annually) is an unreasonable amount of money to have an extra set of eyes and an extra set of ears in the capital.”
    Haynes and Robert Porter, who chairs the legislative committee of the chamber of commerce, cited examples of Turner’s efforts that saved local jobs.
    Haynes also urged council members to vote their conscience, saying he would go along with whatever the council decided.
    Taylor, though, said Turner’s contract is “structured in a way to conceal the fact that the taxpayers are funding a lobbyist. Mr. Turner is registered as a lobbyist.”
    There is no need for the city to hire a taxpayer-funded lobbyist, Taylor said. She said the city already has the Texas Municipal League and its lobbyists, and the city manager has access to the Texas City Management Association with that organization’s lobbyists.
    The most recent issue that Turner could have helped with, Taylor said, was an issue that Haynes introduced to the council after attending a Texas Municipal League meeting.
    If the city wants representation in Austin, Taylor said, contacting state Sen. Dawn Buckingham or state Rep. Mike Lang is more appropriate than hiring a lobbyist.
    Porter said the Brown County entities are effective in Austin “because we cooperate … we have a unified appearance. Our rural advocate is there, listening, watching for what’s going on that might adversely affect us. The last thing we want to do is find out about a bill when it’s being presented on the house or senate floor.
    “It is a unified voice of all these entities in Brown County. It’s a force multiplier when you’ve got six entities working together.”
    Porter said Turner had helped stop a redistricting plan that would have divided Brown County into two U.S. congressional districts. “That one action right there over the last seven years is worth the money,” Porter said.

Additional topics
    Other agenda items included a report from Fire Chief Eddy Wood on the fire department’s new fire engine, which was parked outside City Hall so city officials could get a look at the apparatus.
    Council members approved the purchase of the new engine last year at a cost of $591,964. The engine will enter service in about six more weeks after the department receives hose. The engine will be assigned to Fire Station 2 and will replace a 17-year-old truck which will be used for reserves.
    City Manager Emily Crawford also spoke briefly about the upcoming joint annual meeting of the City Council, chamber of commerce, Brownwood Municipal Development District and Brownwood Industrial Foundation. That meeting will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Adams Street Community Center.
    The Brownwood Municipal Development District has published its agenda for the meeting. The agenda says directors will meet with council members in executive session to discuss a “possible private event center project and city and BMDD participation.” No action will be taken, the agenda states.
    City officials declined Tuesday to comment on the topic.
    In another matter, council members approved on first reading an ordinance adopting the 2017 National Electrical Code and the following 2015 International Codes: building, residential, property maintenance, mechanical, fuel gas code, existing building code, energy conservation code, plumbing code and fire code.