Powell residents should see a spate of improvements and discussions about future projects in 2014 as the city's financial picture continues to improve.
City Manager Steve Lutz said his administration and Powell City Council were conservative in their budgeting during the aftermath of the recession.
"From 2010 to 2013, the city's expenditures went up by $16,700," Lutz said, "so what the city has done during the economic recession was -- we really tightened our belts. Now that the economy has improved, our revenues are up significantly."
The city budgeted for almost $2 million more in expenditures in 2014 compared with 2013, largely in reaction to improving economic conditions, such as an increase in city income-tax revenue.
"We've been putting projects on hold and delaying things, and now we feel that the revenues have stabilized (and) we can go ahead and initiate some of these projects," Lutz said.
He said the expenditures residents will notice most in 2014 include a $500,000 increase in the amount spent on street repair and the hiring of a new police officer -- a position that has been vacant for several years.
"Those are a couple of projects that I think will have the greatest impact on our residents on a day-to-day basis," Lutz said.
City residents also will start seeing the effects of a 1.8-mill capital-improvement levy approved by voters in November 2012. The levy will replace a 1.8-mill parks and recreation levy that expired at the end of 2013.
Residents soon will have the chance to weigh in on how the levy funding is used.
Lutz said discussions about the design and features of Seldom Seen Park, which will be located off Seldom Seen Road between Sawmill Parkway and Liberty Road, will start before the winter ends.
"We have hired a park planner to help us with that and will be having our first public park (planning meeting), hopefully, in February," he said.
Lutz said the city also plans to get another levy project off the ground in the first few months -- one that he called "a long time coming."
The city expects to hire an engineering firm to work on the extension of Murphy Parkway to Liberty Road.
Lutz said city officials have discussed the project since his arrival as city manager in 1996, but finding funding for the project remained a hurdle until the levy was approved.
The extension should relieve traffic congestion by creating a new way for drivers to bypass downtown Powell.
Construction is expected to start on the park and the road extension in 2015.
One levy improvement that residents will see completed in 2014 is the installation of new traffic signals at Sawmill Parkway's intersections with Galloway and Village Club drives.
Lutz said the revenue from the levy allows the city to make improvements without raising the city's income-tax rate.
"One thing we're quite proud of in Powell is we have the lowest income tax in central Ohio. We have a 0.75 percent income tax, while most communities have a 2 percent or a 2.5 percent income tax," he said. "We do have to watch our expenditures because we don't have the luxury of having a higher income tax. It makes us work a little smarter because of that."
While some of the capital-improvement projects seek to address traffic issues in the city, Lutz said the city is limited in what it can do to relieve congestion.
"The projects which have occurred and which will occur in the future are not going to eliminate traffic problems in the region," he said. "There's just too much traffic for the infrastructure. It will assist with some of the issues and, hopefully, it will help to minimize some of the delays."
Lutz said jurisdictional issues and the sheer volume of traffic often are out of the city's control. Still, he said traffic is the "clear No. 1 issue" residents bring up when they take surveys the city sends out every two years to evaluate resident satisfaction.
After the Murphy Parkway extension is completed, Lutz said the city will consider whether additional improvements, such as adding turn lanes at the Four Corners intersection in the city's downtown area, are needed.
Beyond the traffic, Lutz said the surveys reveal a large majority of the residents are pleased with the way the city operates.
"For the most part, residents are very happy with city services," Lutz said.