From levy to CEDA, Powell council members lay out top goals

ThisWeek News – February 5, 2012

From creating a wellness committee to placing a capital improvements funding issue on the November ballot, Powell City Council members revisited prior initiatives and created plenty of new ones at a goal-setting meeting Monday, Jan. 30.

Mediated by public opinion researcher Martin Saperstein of Saperstein Associates, council members were asked to discuss accomplishments they’ve achieved since the last goal-setting meeting, held in January 2010.

“I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think we’ve accomplished much at all,” said Councilman Tom Counts.

He said since the income tax levy failed in November 2010, operations have been simply maintained and capital improvements put on hold.

Other council members said there were some things to be proud of, including the creation of the Powell CIC and business incubator, the annexation of Giant Eagle, and the city’s status as one of the safest in Central Ohio.

Saperstein told council members the reason they may not have been successful in accomplishing goals laid out in 2010 isn’t just because they didn’t have the money or time to work on them, but because the goals were vague and no single member was assigned the task of seeing them through.

“A project has to have a champion who is responsible for moving it along,” Saperstein said, before asking council members to pitch a project in as much detail as possible that they would lead and could use to benefit the city’s overarching goals.

Councilman Brian Lorenz suggested creating a wellness committee that would host monthly events such as speaker forums and health fairs, as well as physical activities such as walking clubs and races.

Counts endorsed a review and update of the capital improvements list. He said the list, which would serve as an update to one created about six years ago, could assign priorities to projects and show residents exactly where their tax dollars are going.

To fund those improvements, Mayor Rich Cline said he’d like to go back to the voters in November. Although many meetings would have to be held on the topic before a decision is reached about how to present a tax levy to voters, Cline made a suggestion.

The parks and recreation department’s 10-year levy will come to an end this year. Cline said instead of renewing the levy, a new one could be placed on the ballot for the same millage.

By replacing one levy for another, the city could make much-needed capital improvements, but residents wouldn’t see an increase in their taxes, Cline said.

Also on the November ballot could be changes to the city’s charter.

Councilman Mike Crites said he’d like to lead a charter review committee and set a standard that the governing document be on the table for discussion at least every 10 years.

The city’s sign and zoning codes also should be up for review, said Councilman Jon Bennehoof.

He said he’d like to lead a process that would take after the codes of other successful communities so businesses aren’t discouraged to move to Powell because of strict and sometimes contradictory rules.

In the same vein, Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner said she would like to create a business roundtable that gives local entrepreneurs the opportunity to share ideas and air complaints. Brenner said she’d like the monthly or quarterly meetings to give the city insight on if and how it could change its policies to better accommodate people who’ve chosen to set up shop in the city.

Councilman Jim Hrivnak told his peers that the Downtown tax-increment financing district can begin funding capital improvements in the area.

While the development committee has been working on a sequence for the projects for about a year, he said he’d like to have a finalized list by the end of 2012. Potential projects include extending sidewalks, adding street lamps and additional parking, and restructuring the Four Corners intersection.

All council members agreed finalizing the Cooperative Economic Development Agreement with Liberty Township also is a top priority on this year’s to-do list.

While Saperstein gave council members the opportunity to share any other ideas they had for projects in the coming year, members will chose the most important for a formal plan to be presented during the council meeting set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Municipal Building, 47 Hall St.

Once the plans and timelines are presented, council agreed to devote about 15 minutes of each meeting this year to discussing the projects.

“I think this process will give us an opportunity to make real progress toward some of these goals,” Cline said.