In a continued effort to provide transparency between the city and its residents, Powell City Council passed an ordinance on Monday to enter into a contract with MurphyEpson, a public relations firm in Columbus, to assist the recently formed Powell Citizens Financial Review Task Force Committee in educating the public on their work.
The contract is valued at $27,720.
Discussions on how to help the public’s understanding of the committee’s work and findings had been ongoing since January, and an initial proposal was made by MurphyEpson last month but wasn’t sufficient enough for council members to act on. Company President Marie Keister presented a revised plan to council on Monday that, while still met with skepticism from some members, was ultimately approved with a 5-2 vote.
The Powell Citizens Financial Review Task Force Committee is comprised of both citizens and city staff and had their first meeting in January. The committee is broken down into three subcommittees — Revenues, Expenditures, and Capital Needs — and “was formed to review the city’s finances with an eye toward making decisions for future capital improvements within the city,” according to City Clerk Karen Mitchell.
The city of Powell and MurphyEpson are no strangers to each other, having teamed up on the “Keep Powell Moving” initiative that began in 2016 to address growing traffic concerns among the public. Included in the initiative were the extensions of Murphy and Sawmill parkways.
“We are experts in simplifying public jargon and helping governments be more open and accessible to their citizens,” Keister said.
A June deadline has been set for the committee to report their findings and present options to City Council. But presenting their findings to the public, and helping them to understand, will require outside help.
“You have a wonderful staff here who can work directly with the media … we want to give you the tools and the words you can reference so that everyone is speaking from the same song sheet,” Keister would later say.
Councilwoman Melissa Riggins was one of the council members who was not in favor of the proposal, questioning the value of MurphyEpson’s role compared to the high cost.
“Quite frankly, I’m still not sold on the cost,” Riggins said. “I agree with everything that needs to be done, but for what is being provided, I still have questions about that.”
Added Councilman Brendan Newcomb, “I think that by hiring a consultant we’re sending out our own message, basically spending $5,000 a month for the next six months. I don’t think it’s the message we want to send when we’re attempting to raise people’s taxes.”
Much respect was given from all council members to the work of the Task Force Committee thus far, especially those in support of the ordinance.
In addressing Keister on the revised proposal, Councilman Frank Bertone said, “When I think of the Task Force and the effort that has been put forth, I think it’s a disservice for us not to support it in some fashion.” Bertone also added that tax increases were not imminent at this time.
Mayor Jon Bennehoof doubled down on the praise for the work of the Task Force Committee and the need for their work to be seen and understood by the residents of Powell, stating, “The best plan, poorly communicated, is doomed to fail.”
Councilman Brian Lorenz added, “The proof is in the pudding from what they were able to do for us for ‘Keep Powell Moving.’”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.