And many Powell residents want to share their thoughts with the city of Powell — to the point that they wrote out dozens of comments in the margins of a nine-question survey sent by the city of Powell.
Out of 2,383 surveys mailed to residences and businesses, 780 people responded — a nearly 33 percent return — with citizens focusing on a range of city issues.
“This data offers a great deal of insight into the minds of our community,” wrote JeaLinda Patton, a University of Wyoming student and city intern who compiled the survey results, in her analysis. “From these results, we can gather an understanding of the priorities of the citizens, and also the areas in which improvement or changes in budgeting, priorities and services may be mutually beneficial.”
Patton called the 32.7 percent response “phenomenal,” and said it exceeded expectations.
“Thirty-two percent — we never would have guessed that,” said City Administrator Zane Logan. “That’s a pretty good cross reference (of the community).”
City staff members have already discussed the results, and both Logan and Mayor Scott Mangold said city leaders will consider survey responses when making decisions.
“I think it’s a good guide for the city council when it comes to budget time,” Mayor Mangold said.
To determine the effectiveness of the survey, Patton will do a follow-up evaluation by June 30, looking at how the information is or isn’t used in final decision made by the city administration and City Council.
Question 1: Urgent projects
The first question asked residents to prioritize five city projects by urgency — repairs to Absaroka Street, repairs to Division Street, slip-lining of sewer mains, a landfill transfer station and completion of Centennial Park.
Nearly 68 percent of all responses identified the landfill transfer station as “very urgent” and “urgent.”
Building a transfer station to handle garbage when the Powell landfill closes to municipal solid waste in 2012 has been a main concern for the city of Powell, and Mangold said the survey shows it’s a concern for residents, too.
“It solidified what we had been talking about and working on,” Mangold said.
The city officials are waiting to hear if Powell will receive state grant money for the project.
Renovations to Absaroka and Division streets were identified as the second and third most urgent projects, respectively. Slip-lining sewer mains followed in fourth, and completion of Centennial Park was identified as the least urgent project, according to the results.
Question 2: Special funding
Each year, the Powell City Council approves special funding requests from various external organizations in the community, with requests ranging from $500 to more than $100,000. Question 2 asked residents to prioritize the need for city funding for the following organizations: Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Boys and Girls Club; Powell Senior Center; Chamber of Commerce; and Powell Golf Course.
By a slim margin, the Powell Senior Center was listed as the top priority, followed closely by the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“The last organization, the Powell Golf Course, held the most responses in a single category in the entire survey, having received 541 low responses,” Patton wrote in her observations. “Many comments were written under or about this question. These comments were mostly negative toward the concept of special requests, but especially against the Powell Golf Course’s high dollar requests.”
Last year, the Powell Golf Club requested $55,000, and the survey indicated the club plans to request more than $100,000 for the fiscal year 2011-’12.
While the Powell Golf Course is partially owned by the city of Powell, it does not operate as a city department, but rather, as its own business.
“The fact is, the golf course is a completely separate entity,” Patton said.
Only city of Powell residents or members of the business community received the survey, and most golf club members — around 60 percent — are Park County residents, Mangold noted.
“There were folks in the county that wished they could have responded,” Councilman Floyd Young said. “A lot of our golfers are in the county.”
The Powell City Council will consider special requests for next year’s budget during special work sessions in May, and Mangold said the council will look at survey results during this year’s budget planning.
“It appears that the people prioritized special requests in a ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ fashion when you look at the comments and the results,” Patton wrote. “They wanted to help the elderly and children in a wholesome way, but found the requests from the recreational and business organizations as being less reasonable.”
Question 3 and 4: Paying for projects
Question 3 asked: “In the case that we find citizen support for special funding and projects that we cannot budget for entirely, we will have to stimulate additional revenue. As a citizen contributing to our annual revenue, how would you be willing to increase your contribution to these funds?”
Nearly 52 percent of residents supported a 1-percent optional sales tax while 44 percent said they were not willing to pay. Only 4 percent favored increasing utilities.
“We found it kind of fascinating that the 1-percent tax overtook the ‘not willing to pay,’” Patton said.
Logan said the 1-cent tax should be considered only for a need, not a want.
He said the survey indicates that if Park County voters had considered a 1-cent optional sales tax for the transfer station on the 2010 ballot, “there would have been some support for it.”
Question 4 asked how residents would be willing to contribute to special funding for organizations (generally recreational in nature) that provide services with user fees attached.
“Under this question, increased user fees and ‘not willing to pay’ nearly tied in responses, followed distantly by a 1-percent optional sales tax, and again, nearly no responses for an increase in utility payments,” Patton wrote. “Interestingly, many citizens wrote comments about the idea of the 1-percent optional sales tax as an option for the landfill transfer station or for improvements to operations, but were primarily against having it used for special requests.”
Questions 5, 6 and 7: Citizen satisfaction
Citizens rated their satisfaction with special funding (question 5), city services (question 6), and maintenance work and projects (question 7).
Most residents indicated they were satisfied with funding, services and projects.
However, 116 people did not respond to question 5, and Patton said the high number of blank responses might indicate a lack of information being provided to the public about special funding.
Question 6 asked residents to list services they considered most impressive and least impressive. The police, sanitation, streets and parks departments each received a high number of responses in both categories — most impressive and least impressive.
Patton said it could be because these services are the most visible in the community.
Logan said city staff members are looking at the results specific to their departments to consider what they’re doing well and where they need to improve.
Questions 8 and 9: Information
Question 8 asked if residents would like more information about specific topics. Most residents — 36 percent — want more information about projects, followed by citizen resources (22.6 percent), programs (21.9 percent) and city processes (19.5 percent).
Question 9 looked at how they would like information distributed. More than 36 percent said the newspaper, followed by mailings (21.8 percent), city website (19.1 percent), radio broadcasts (10.2 percent), brochures (5.7 percent), meeting in person (3.3 percent) and local TV programs (3.2 percent).
Logan said to provide more information about projects, the city may host more presentations, similar to a public presentation about the transfer station earlier this year. That allows for direct dialogue between city leaders and residents, Logan said.
While the survey did not ask for general comments, that didn’t stop respondents from writing their thoughts on the survey, and some even attached typed letters.
“There were a lot of margins filled with ink … there was a lot of margin space, and people definitely used it,” Patton said. “Every comment was read and accounted for.”
Patton said while written comments are helpful for the city, they are difficult to analyze, because they are so individual and not focused on one particular point.
“Comment options were minimized to focus citizen attention on the questions asked and to avoid confusion of the topics being examined,” Patton wrote, adding that the survey also was designed to inform citizens in addition to getting their feedback.
Patton said the nine questions were carefully crafted so they would be focused and unbiased.
Patton said she wrote draft upon draft of the survey questions, getting insight from Logan, Police Chief Tim Feathers and city department heads.
Patton said she believes city staff and council members will take the survey results to heart.
“They all took it seriously, from the very first day,” Patton said.
With one out of three citizens responding, it shows the public took it seriously, too.
Even weeks past the deadline, survey responses continued to arrive at City Hall.
“I’m still getting them,” Patton said.
To view complete survey results
To download complete survey results