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Erie County Water Authority selects new PR provider

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The Erie County Water Authority, at its Thursday board meeting, approved a new three-year agreement by which E3 Communications will manage public relations for the entity. The firm, which had previously served the Authority in a similar role, replaces the provider which parted ways with the Authority following a shift in political majority on its board.

Of the 12 requests for proposals issued to local public relations agencies, three replied including E3. Under the agreement approved Thursday, E3 Communications will be paid $6,000 per month for its services.

Two of the three respondents were established firms, the other an individual. Jerome Schad, ECWA Chairman, explained the bid by E3 was far more economical than that of the other large firm which submitted a proposal.

"The flat fee is very attractive," he said. "We have a lot of PR work that needs to be done. I think we're going to get good value for our investment."

E3 takes over the work previously performed by Zeppelin Communcations, or ZeppCom, operated by Republican political strategist Michael Caputo. That firm's contract was terminated upon the change in the Authority to a Democratic majority earlier this year. In addition to naming a new public relations provider, Authority commissioners voted in favor of a $5,000 settlement to resolve remaining conflicts.

"I don't have any comment on the prior PR firm. They terminated the contract and we accepted their resignation and I wish them all the best," said Vice Chairman Mark Carney to WBFO following the meeting.

The Water Authority's current leadership says it is continuing to take steps to improve its transparency, months after a state report sharply criticized administrative practices.

"We have a new audio-video system coming into play," said Carney. "That has to be worked on with our PR firm, in putting that on the new website, and recreation of the website, there's a lot more material and a lot more work than the prior firm may have had to experience."

Carney added that the additional one thousand dollars per month for PR services will not be passed along to customers. He told WBFO the additional money is available in the budget.

In the meantime, ECWA is also moving forward in its search for a new executive director. Administrators had spent weeks in discussion about specific language and qualifications but Schad expressed hope the job opening could be posted within the next couple of days. Interviews, he hoped, could begin in the very near future.

"We are targeting to get interviews done so that we can actually take action on September 20," he said. "That could get delayed but I believe in setting benchmarks to work against. That's my benchmark to get this process done."

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