Powell will spend nearly $28,000 to help publicize the findings of a city task force and gather input from residents on a range of capital improvements and how to pay for them.

Council members April 2 voted 5-2 to hire the public-relations firm MurphyEpson at a cost of $27,720.

The city previously hired the Columbus-based firm to help with publicity on the traffic-focused Keep Powell Moving initiative.

The 18-member Powell Citizen Financial Review Task Force, established in January and made up of residents from nine city neighborhoods, is assessing the city's capital-improvement needs and revenue sources.

The panel could recommend council pursue an income-tax increase, among other options such as bonds and levies.

Hiring an outside company also will help the city supplement the volunteer task force's members and its small communications staff, said City Manager Steve Lutz.

"One of the most important things that the city can do is communicate," Lutz said. "Council has identified the task force as one of the most important initiatives for the city this year."

Members plan to have a draft completed by May and will present final findings to council June 19, Lutz said.

MurphyEpson will help distribute information to residents and business owners and will assist with gathering feedback.

The company also will help conduct public forums and use social media to garner input on whatever the committee comes up with. That information will be vital to future council decisions, city leaders said.

"With a project as big as the task force, most felt it was prudent to bring in some backup resources," Lutz said. "We don't want the task force or the city to be operating in a vacuum.

"Hopefully, we get some participation and feedback" from community members, he said.

Council members Melissa Riggins and Brendan Newcomb voted against the contract, citing the price tag.

"My problem is with the cost, and quite frankly, I'm still not sold on the cost," Riggins said.

Mayor Jon Bennehoof said he has "high regard" for the task force and echoed other council members who said it was important to help educate the public.

City Council's next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at the Village Green Municipal Building, 47 Hall St.

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