Road safety stirs concerns on survey
Long-awaited county survey results were revealed last week, with residents expressing concerns about public transit and road safety.
Washington County residents are still happy with the overall quality of life, the park system and government services, according to the survey which is done every five years.
The survey was mailed to 1,500 randomly selected households in February with 572 adults, or 40 percent, responding.
Switching from phone to mail surveys helped garner more responses, said Erin Caldwell, of the National Research Center, which conducted the survey.
"Response rates for all surveys are dropping, but they're really plummeting for phone surveys," she said. "People tend to be more candid on a self-administered survey."
Responses were converted to ratings on a 100-point scale, then compared to other jurisdictions including cities and counties.
Local residents gave Washington County an overall rating of excellent or good for quality of life.
"Somewhat above a good rating," Caldwell said, explaining the county received a score of 77 out of 100, which is above the benchmark in comparison with other areas of the country.
The survey concluded that residents feel safe, but less so on the roads.
People feel safe in their homes, in their neighborhoods from violent crime, however, they feel the least safe from drunk or impaired and distracted drivers on county roads, and from identity theft, according to the results.
When rating problems in the county on the 100-point scale with 0 being "not a problem" and 100 a "major problem" residents rated public transit at 55, taxes at 50 and foreclosed properties at 47.
County government services was highly rated, though, with residents rating the overall impression of their contact with county employees at 73, well above the benchmark.
Residents also favored parks and recreation, county libraries, trails and bikeways, sheriff services and recycling over the 911 dispatch and the records, licensing and registration services.
Survey results show support for economic development in the county, with 69 percent in favor of local government getting involved.
But not by raising the levy, though. The survey concluded that 36 percent said they'd like to see user fees as a primary funding source for the cost of transit improvements, 24 percent were in favor of state sales tax, and 13 percent said a state income tax should be the funding source.
"Definitely the local taxes were less popular than the state," Caldwell said, but added that one-third actually answered "not sure" to the question regarding support for county investments.
County officials were pleased with the survey results and said with additional feedback from constituents, they'll work to improve the overall quality of life.
Board Chairwoman Lisa Weik, who represents Woodbury, said the county is also lacking services to older adults.
"I've had citizens contact me for some type of community center for seniors," she said, which is another concern that needs to be addressed.
The statistically valid survey yields results within plus or minus 4 percent. The results are weighted to reflect the entire population of Washington County, Caldwell said.