STOW — A councilman who voted Feb. 13 against renewing a contract with a marketing group hired by the city reconsidered his vote and brought back legislation.
Council member Dennis Altieri Feb. 27 asked council to reconsider legislation canceling a contract with Impact Group, a social development company, and revote. Council then voted 4 to 3 to maintain the contract.
Council members Mario Fiocca, Sindi Harrison and Jeremy McIntire voted against the legislation. The same three along with Altieri had voted Feb. 13 to cancel the contract.
Harrison said the city didn’t need another survey, but the Impact Group did one, and she said the results were difficult to read.
McIntire said he didn’t like the funding source for the Impact Group, which he said was for infrastructure and economic development.
Finance Director James Costello said the fund paying for Impact Group was originally a lodging tax (tax for each room rented in Stow) and a way to fund various activities in the city.
Past legislation moved 50 percent of the lodging tax for economic development to the Community Investment Corporation, which is now defunct, Costello said. Stow had little economic development during that time and the fund kept growing, so a broader definition of economic development was applied to the fund to include signs, social media and other things.
"It is used for getting people to come to Stow," Costello said.
The city pays $4,500 per month for the Impact Group’s services which rebranded the city with a new logo and coordinated the city’s website in the past year. Their contract would have ended March 31 but is now extended for a year.
McIntire said reaching out to businesses was the economic development director’s job and not Impact’s role.
Mayor John Pribonic said it would be more costly to do the work in-house and the city needs to communicate to residents. This year Impact Group will spotlight different businesses, large and small, and promote new businesses and retain old ones.
"Last year was a foundation year to get us in place and collect information and start doing things," Pribonic said. "We want to communicate more clearly with residents than just with Facebook. We’re looking at different options to communicate with residents on important issues and timely issues."
The Impact Group is working on educating the public on safety rules for stopped buses, Pribonic said. They will work on suicide awareness to inform and educate people how to recognize someone who may be at risk.
"They’ll help to facilitate training about suicide awareness with professional groups beginning with our own city employees and spreading out," Pribonic said.
Police Chief Jeff Film said there is a national shortage of police officers and they were working with Impact Group to write a recruitment plan and create a video for recruiting police officers, which has seen a low number of applicants.
"We would take the video to job fairs and universities," Film said. "They are working with every department on projects. We’ve been impressed with their work."
Pribonic said the fire department is also running into issues finding new recruits and could request a training video as well.
Harrison said the city should hire someone to do police videos and not have an ongoing monetary contract.
Council member Steve Hailer said he didn’t have enough information at the previous meeting to know the goals of the city.
"The administration were excited about them," Hailer said. "Let us make the determination if they make the mark. I was not stunned by the cost. It’s not a big share of the budget."
Director of Public Services Nicholas Wren said they market the city every day, but the city doesn’t have a communication person like other cities.
"We want one voice for the city for a cohesive approach," Wren said. "Impact changed our logo, message and promoted our identity."
Impact Group promoted the city’s brand cheaper than a full-time city employee, Wren said. They can create videos, fundraisers and visit businesses.
"They have a different role than an economic director," Wren said.
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org