Powell officials hope to come to a consensus this year on a solution to a problem that has vexed city leaders for a long time.
City Manager Steve Lutz said he thinks discussions in 2018 could be the key to finding a new way to fund capital-improvement projects in Powell.
Lutz said Powell City Council plans this month to appoint about 20 residents and business owners to a task force charged with reviewing the city's financial situation, including projected short- and long-term infrastructure needs. He said the panel's work would include research and discussion about Powell's 0.75 percent income-tax rate.
"The city is proud of having the lowest income-tax rate in central Ohio and one of the lowest in the state of Ohio, but that has impacted our ability to fund capital-improvement projects," he said.
Lutz said he expects the group to deliver a report and recommendations to council sometime near the middle of the year. He said the proposed timeline would allow the city to pursue a tax-related ballot issue in the fall, if the panel recommends one.
The three council incumbents who ran for and won re-election last fall all pointed to the task force as their preferred way to analyze the city's funding needs.
Councilman Tom Counts, who cited the city's infrastructure challenges as a reason for running again, said in October he thought bringing residents together would be the first step toward solving a longstanding problem.
"What I hope is there will be a consensus that will come out (of the group)," he said.
Lutz said high-profile projects that lack necessary funding for completion include the proposed Park at Seldom Seen and many recommendations from the Keep Powell Moving traffic plan.
Council last fall rejected all bids for the first three phases of the Park at Seldom Seen, ranging from $3.8 million to $4.4 million. The city initially estimated the cost at about $3.4 million and planned to build the park in phases because it lacked the funds to complete the full $9 million plan for the 23-acre site near the Seldom Seen Road railroad crossing.
Lutz said city officials are meeting with contractors to attempt to negotiate a lower price for the first three phases of the park, which include the construction of athletic fields and a parking lot. He said a contract could come before council for approval this month, while work on the site could potentially begin in late winter or early spring.
A lack of funding also will keep city officials focused on lower-cost ways to improve traffic in 2018, Lutz said. While council approved a new street and circulation plan that suggested $30 million in improvements in and around the city's downtown, Powell lacks the ability to pay for many of the recommended projects.
"In 2018, we'll be looking at some local and regional wayfinding signage to hopefully help people that live within this region and outside the region navigate through and around Powell better," he said.
The city also plans to install and activate a new traffic signal at the intersection of Grace Drive and Liberty Street.
Lutz said higher-cost projects, such as the construction of a new system of alleys and connector streets, will be discussed by the new capital-improvement task force.
"We're really starting to drain any capital-improvement funds that we have, and that's why it's important for the city to look at how we want to fund these going forward," he said.
The city's leadership remains largely intact from its 2017 form. Attorney Melissa Riggins is the lone first-year council member after winning her first term in November's general election.