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Community Survey Results Presented To City Council

By Staff | Oct 15, 2015

JEFF?SCHOTT

A community survey conducted in Emmetsburg back in September was presented to the Emmetsburg City Council Monday night. Results of the survey provided some things to think about for the council, and also provided some praise for various city functions.

Jeff Schott, Director of the Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Iowa, explained the survey’s results to the council and gallery in a presentation held at the Shores on Lost Island Community Center.

Schott noted that the surveys were sent to each household in the community, our 1,427 surveys. A total of 484 were returned a response of 33.9 percent.

“This is certainly within our response rate, just a little bit lower than normal,”?Schott said, “But the margin of error becomes important because it is four percent.”

It was also noted that a higher response rate came from residents 55 years of age and older, and more females responded than males.

The survey was divided into different areas, the first being general opinions.

On the question of whether Emmetsburg was a nice place to live, 87.8 percent of the respondents either strongly agreed or agreed. Just 6.6 percent did not agree with the question.

“Now, you make look at that and say, ‘of course’, but we’ve done a number of these surveys across the state, and we don’t always get that high of a percentage,”?Schott said.

Asked if they felt safe in Emmetsburg, 92.8 percent agreed, while just 4.5 percent of responders did not feel safe.

Turning to questions on policy, a question on if the city should encouragement more industrial and commercial economic development through financial incentives and city resources received 78.1 percent agreement, with 9.5 percent disagreement.

A?similar question regarding city encouragement of residential development drew 62.6 percent approval as opposed to 15.5 percent opposing such an idea.

A question on the city adopting a more aggressive code enforcement policy, such as dealing with weeds, junk cars and the like, received 76.2 percent approval, while just 7.2 percent disagreed.

“That’s a very strong indicator,” Schott noted, “The question is geared more towards the nuisance codes.”

Other questions addressed inspections of rental properties, more maintenance of city parks, which surprised Schott. 69.7 percent agreed, while just 7.5 percent disagreed. “In most cities, this is about 50/50, so that sends a clear message.”

When asked if residents felt they received good value for the taxes paid, 36.2 percent agreed, while 45.2 percent disagreed.

Just 33.7 percent of respondents agreed with the direction the city was taking, while 47.2 percent disagreed.

Asked if the mayor and council met the expectations of the public, 31.3 percent agreed and 45.3 percent disagreed. Regarding the expectations of EMU board, 33.2 percent agreed and 37 percent disagreed.

“What we’ve seen as a national trend, not just in Iowa, the level of trust in government in general, national, state and local, has been declining over the last 10-15 years,” Schott noted. “Typically the local government has a higher level of trust than the state or federal government.”

A question was asked if the city still needed an outdoor swimming pool, and 64.5 agreed, while 22.9 disagreed.

Quality of services offered by the city showed that 40..0 percent were satisfied with the Community Center as opposed to 30.7 percent opposed.

Fire and Police services received high approval, along with garbage collection, which garnered 90.1 percent approval, with just 5.4 percent disapproval.

“I rarely see garbage collection score this high,”?Schott said noted.

Other services such as the golf course, Library, gas services, parks, planning and zoning and cemetery all received high approval.

“Snow removal gained 75.0 percent approval, with just 16.8 disapproving. “That’s a very high number,” Schott observed.

Overall, the top five services as ranked by residents were garbage collection, Fire Department, Police Department, Parks and Library, while the five areas residents were most unhappy with were Economic Development, Street Maintenance, the Community Center, Code Enforcement and Storm water management.

The survey also addressed capital improvements, where respondents were asked to rate a priority for the expenditure. The new campground received just 6.3 percent high priority, 17.3 percent medium priority and 34.5 percent felt it was a low priority, while 36.6 percent did not want it funded.

On a fiber optic-broadband system, 16.0 percent rated it high, 19.2 percent a medium priority and 16.4 percent rated it low, while 36.4 percent did not want to fund it.

But when it came to other capital improvements, an outdoor pool was identified by just 4.6 percent of respondents.

The top five things most liked about the community were the friendly/nice people at 28.2 percent, the lake at 22.9 percent, safety/low crime rate at 21.9 percent, schools at 16.2 percent and the size and small-town atmosphere at 15.8 percent.

The top five least-liked features were the limited shopping opportunities at 22,7 percent, high property taxes at 13.1 percent, good job opportunities at 8.4 percent and the city council not listening to the people at 8.2 percent and the city spending too much at 7.8 percent.

“The highest priority need identified was economic development – jobs, good paying jobs, more businesses, nearly 28 percent identified it,”?Schott said.

Schott noted that 40.7 percent of respondents to the survey were 65-plus. “It’s just harder to get younger folks to respond to surveys.”

In closing, Schott noted that 29 percent said they were well informed about the city’s operations.