Most active PHP developers I know dont like to talk to the customer, they just want to know what to do, so from my perspective find an active front end designer, that contracts with several PHP programmers and gain some quotes
This is what you should expect.
The front end designer should be very clear what you want, willing to mock up the "Ideas" you have in basic html, then show it to the php programmer. He will then put "Logic" to it, and if he is worth his weight, he will correct, simplify, and advise.
Local programmers are really no different, you either luck out and know an experienced programmer, or you go through an ISP, which is the same anyway.