New Big Dig boss gives heave-ho to six PR and lobbying agencies

BOSTON: When Andrew Natsios took over Boston’s ’Big Dig’ last month, he promised to start with a clean slate. One of his first targets was the massive highway project’s PR and lobbying efforts.

BOSTON: When Andrew Natsios took over Boston’s ’Big Dig’ last month, he promised to start with a clean slate. One of his first targets was the massive highway project’s PR and lobbying efforts.

BOSTON: When Andrew Natsios took over Boston’s ’Big Dig’ last

month, he promised to start with a clean slate. One of his first targets

was the massive highway project’s PR and lobbying efforts.



Just weeks after dismissing the project manager and other top officials,

Natsios fired six PR and lobbying firms on May 5, including Regan

Communications and GPC/O’Neill (though Regan said it has received no

official word and in fact recently received an extension letter).



The six companies had contracts worth a combined dollars 449,000 a year,

a drop in the bucket of the Big Dig’s now dollars 13.6 billion price

tag. But the firings were front-page news in a city that is looking to

Natsios to get control of the decade-old attempt to sink Interstate 93

beneath downtown.



Publicity surrounding the Big Dig - once projected to cost dollars 2.6

billion and now slated for completion in 2004 - has gone from bad to

worse. In the last six weeks alone, the US Attorney’s office has begun

investigating the project’s self-insurance plan; the Boston Herald

reported that the project paid dollars 47 million for a site it never

used; and an audit, which cost Natsios predecessor James Kerasiotes his

job, said the federal government was misled about over a billion dollars

in cost overruns. All the while, Boston commuters continued to seethe

about construction-related traffic for a 10th straight year.



The firings left the project essentially without a lobbying or PR

effort, which some say it now needs more than ever.



’It seems like an odd time to get rid of everybody,’ said one PR exec

with ties to the project. ’But they just want a clean slate. I don’t

think (Natsios) knows enough yet to make any real determination of

whether he needs help in the statehouse, or in the media and in

Washington.’



But Massachusetts Turnpike Authority spokesman Bill Bliss said the

firings were necessary to restore public confidence. ’I think (Natsios)

wants to lead the PR effort,’ he said. ’Restoring credibility is one of

the goals he set.’



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