Olentangy Valley News

Powell gets head start on capital improvements

Planning has begun for new park, roadwork after passage of levy Nov. 6


Revenue from a newly approved capital improvements levy won't start rolling in until 2014, but Powell city officials intend to begin work next year anyway.

A new park on Seldom Seen Road, an extension of Murphy Parkway, various road repairs and an array of new bike paths are slated for construction after voters boosted a 10-year, 1.8-mill levy to an easy victory Nov. 6. The levy passed by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

But since collections on the levy won't begin for another year, Powell City Council voted 7-0 at its Nov. 20 meeting to approve a plan to use general fund dollars to begin improvements in 2013.

The general fund will be reimbursed later.

"It takes a lot of time to engineer these projects and do master planning, so we're going to use general fund revenues for those expenditures," City Manager Steve Lutz said. "This allows us to reimburse ourselves with bonds in 2014."

The levy is expected to generate about $7.2 million over its duration and cost taxpayers about $55.13 annually per $100,000 in property value.

It won't raise taxes because it is effectively a renewal of the city's existing parks levy, which expires next year.

Also at last week's meeting, council voted 7-0 to approve a three-year commitment to the Central Ohio Health Care Consortium, hoping for lower rates.

Current participants include New Albany, Worthington, Gahanna and Grove City.

"(The consortium) has a strong financial history and their insurance increases have certainly trended lower than what private insurance shows," Lutz said.

In recent years, he said Powell has been incurring rate increases of 15 percent 20 percent to insure its 42 employees.

But he warned the city can realistically only hope to slow rising costs, not reverse them.

"Rates are not going to go down because insurance keeps going up, but we think being part of the pool will protect our interests better than if we go on the private market," Lutz said.

Also at the Nov. 20 meeting, council voted 5-1 to raise the fee for renting the amphitheater at Village Green Park, located at 47 Hall St., adjacent to the Municipal Building.

The hourly rate was raised from $30 to $50 for the amphitheater, which is used for concerts, parties and the occasional wedding. Lutz said the fee is now more in line with fees in neighboring communities.

He said though the amphitheater is not often rented, rentals represent a relatively large staff commitment and maintenance expense.

Councilman Jon Bennehoff abstained and Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner voted "no," saying it would be fairer to pass the added costs along only to nonresidents, who rent the facility more frequently than residents and don't pay Powell taxes.