The results are in and for the fourth year in a row citizens have described Sedalia has a good place to live.
The annual citizens’ survey is distributed through the water bill and can be completed on the city’s website. This year 906 surveys were returned, almost a 10 percent return rate, which City Administrator Gary Edwards called a “good return.”
“As is the case every year, we do a survey to get an idea of what citizens think of services we perform — if they’re satisfied, not satisfied, strong points, weak points,” Edwards explained. “As is the case each year, it’s very helpful and gives us an idea of areas we need to improve, an idea of areas that are strong; we always need improvement in all areas. It’s a good overview of the whole picture of what people think. … We’re satisfied with the results and satisfied with the direction citizens are asking us to go as far as improvements and strengths.”
Citizens were given four choices — excellent, good, fair or poor — when answering the questions. When measuring the responses, excellent and good were grouped together, while fair and poor rankings stand by themselves. Any excellent to good response of 50 percent or higher shows strong favorability, according to a city news release.
Once again, citizens have a high opinion of Sedalia as 71 percent rated the city as a good to excellent place to call home. Each year the survey has been distributed, the favorability has slightly increased, with 2016 being the highest year so far; in 2013 it was 64 percent.
Every year the survey includes most of the same questions, with a few specialized or one-time questions included each year. In 2016, high profile questions included the community center, once-a-week trash pickup and rental inspections.
Of those responding, 57 percent said they agreed with once-a-week trash pickup “if it meant keeping the monthly rates low” while 36 percent did not want to lose twice-a-week. In regards to recycling, 73 percent said keep the service and 19 percent said stop the service.
The use of the survey results was brought up during a recent council meeting and Edwards again addressed why council chose to vote on the trash changes without the final survey results.
“Before council voted it was 62 percent in favor of once-a-week pickup if it keeps rates lower. Once (council) voted, (survey) results continued to come in, it went down to 57 percent said yes once a week, 36 percent said no, do not favor one a week,” Edwards said. “From the time council voted to the end of the survey period there wasn’t much of a change.”
For the third year, citizens were asked if they are in favor of rental home inspections for health and safety reasons and 70 percent said yes with 21 saying no, almost exactly the same results as the 2014 and 2015 surveys.
Citizens have been asked about a community center before, but this year the question was altered to ask if citizens were in favor of financially supporting a center without a pool — 41 percent said yes while 48 percent said no.
“There’s not a huge gap there, a larger number saying they would not support it without a pool,” Edwards said. “This is the first time we asked it in that way. In previous years, last year we asked if citizens would financially support a community center — 59 percent said yes, 33 percent said no. The year prior was even, 43 yes, 43 no. The year prior was 55 percent yes, 36 percent no. This is the first year the no’s have had the higher number.”
On the flip side, citizens are pleased overall with the Parks and Recreation Department with 77 percent responding it does an excellent to good job, its highest rating yet.
Edwards noted the survey is a “basic element of performance measurement of city services.”
“We first find out what citizens think needs to be improved and what is strong. That is done with the survey,” he explained. “Then we begin to measure within each department. We conclude with the annual evaluations.”
Other results included 68 percent of respondents saying they feel safe in Sedalia and 72 percent saying city services are excellent to good, both questions receiving the highest number yet. Both the Sedalia Police and Fire departments received a rating “well above” 50 percent.
When it comes to dealing with city staff, 83 percent of respondents said they were treated in a courteous manner in their last contact with the City and 7 percent said they were not.
In 2013, 49 percent of respondents said they have a high opinion of downtown Sedalia and that number jumped in 2016 to 59 percent. Street maintenance has also steadily climbed upward since 2013’s survey.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.