The results are in, and Sedalia citizens seem to have an overall favorable opinion of the State Fair City, according to the 2015 annual citizen survey.
This is the third year for the survey to be distributed, which allows citizens a chance to voice their opinions on various city services and other aspects of the city. Roughly 800 surveys were returned, similar to previous years. City Administrator Gary Edwards said the results give city staff a better understanding of how citizens view the quality of city services.
“It helps for planning the budget and when we have our annual January budget citywide meeting with council and staff it’s very helpful to know what areas need improvement as far as public opinion and what is doing well,” he said. “We referred to that survey in the case of streets, for example; in the last meeting Jan. 10 we pointed out that the year we were in, the budget was the highest it has ever been for streets and we proposed those numbers to continue for at least another year and the survey results were helpful in that discussion.
“Setting budget numbers aside, it makes us aware of what needs improvement, what is already very acceptable… Otherwise we’re flying blind out there.”
Almost every major category saw an increase in positive feedback on this year’s survey. Once again, the highest-rated city department is trash pickup, with 84 percent saying it is good to excellent. Approval numbers of that service have been higher than 80 percent since the survey was first distributed in 2013.
Another highly-ranked department is Parks and Recreation with 75 percent saying the service is good to excellent, consistent with previous years. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they believe Sedalia is a safe place to live, which is also consistent with previous results.
As Edwards noted, the Street Department has seen a rise in public approval, which could be seen as a direct correlation to the record increase in funding for the department over the last two years. The number of citizens who said street maintenance is good to excellent has gone from 29 percent in 2013 to 37 percent in 2015. Those who said the streets are poor have gone from 30 percent to 18 percent.
“Approval is up this year and is going consistently up over the past three years. That coincides with increased funding in those years also, and citizens are starting to see that,” Edwards said. “Those are numbers we still need to improve on, but it is going up steadily. … A lot of this we can use at budget time also, seeing if increased funding like we do on streets is having an impact; in this case it is having an impact.”
The positive perception of downtown Sedalia is also improving. In 2013, 49 percent said downtown was good to excellent, which increased to 56 percent this year.
“Something else I found interesting is downtown is improving also. Those numbers for downtown are better, not a whole lot, but better than in previous years — that shows awareness of downtown,” Edwards said. “Once the streetscape project is completed, they’ll see improvements there. With the arch, etc., I anticipate numbers will go up even more in the right direction after the work is complete.”
For the second year, the city included a question about rental inspections, a hot button topic in Sedalia for the past few years. Last year, 69 percent of those responding said the city should inspect rental properties while 23 percent said no. This year, 74 percent said the inspections should occur for health and safety reasons and 18 percent said no.
“One of the surprises (from the results) was because of the numbers. In this particular case, it’s only the second year we’ve done it — the question on rental inspections,” Edwards said. “This year the numbers are up substantially from last year. … Going up as far as yes’s go and down as far as no’s go. That number struck me.”
Edwards said another result that surprised him was the number of Sedalians who said they would financially support a community center (51 percent).
“This year that number is up fairly substantially,” he said. “No’s are down, yes’s are up. Before it was in the mid-40s for yes’s. That’s a trend that kind of surprised me; I was surprised to see that much of a jump.”
While most categories saw an increase in positive responses, the Sedalia Animal Shelter’s approval rating has shrunk over the past three years from 44 percent saying excellent to good in 2013 to only 25 percent in 2015.
“One thing that did not show up well is the animal shelter,” Edwards said. “Sedalia PD took over in July so we’ve begun to address that already. Next year when we measure we’ll see if it has an impact or not. The survey was over by the time the department took over.”
Overall, the number of citizens who believe Sedalia is a good place to live is up slightly from the previous two years. This year, the people who said Sedalia is excellent to good is at 71 percent compared to 69 percent during the previous two years. Four percent said it is a poor place to live, down from the previous two years.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.