Coon Rapids’ quality of life rated high by residents

A vast majority of residents rate the quality of life in Coon Rapids excellent or good, according to a community survey conducted by Decision Resources, a polling firm located in Minneapolis.

The Coon Rapids City Council retained Decision Resources to perform  the survey which took place in May and June.

Bill Morris of Decision Resources presented the results of the survey at a council work session Tuesday.

According to Coon Rapids Assistant City Manager Matt Stemwedel, the statistically valid survey comprised telephone interviews of 400 randomly selected Coon Rapids residents.

Generally, this random sample will produce results that are within plus or minus 5 percent in 95 out of 100 cases, Stemwedel said.

The survey posed more than 100 questions. including how those polled rated the quality of life in Coon Rapids – excellent, good, only fair or poor.

According to the survey results, 32 percent rated the city’s quality of life excellent, 56 percent good, 12 percent only fair and 1 percent poor.

And while that’s below the positive quality of life response in the last community survey Decision Resources did for the city in 2007 when 55 percent rated it excellent and 35 percent good, Morris said the ratings still place Coon Rapids among the top quartile of metro area suburbs.

Rising crime, 15 percent, and street maintenance, 10 percent, were the top two serious issues raised by those interviewed and reflected the quality of life response, according to Morris.

But 38 percent felt very safe in city and 57 percent reasonably safe, he said.

Indeed, 14 percent of respondents had no serious issues, which is double the percentage that Morris said he finds when surveying other metro communities.

“These are your boosters,” Morris said. “They are with you through thick or thin and are very positive about the future.”

According to Morris, the property tax climate in Coon Rapids is mildly hostile.

Nine percent viewed taxes as a serious issue; 20 percent is about the norm in other metro area communities, Morris said.

But a moderate 46 percent view their taxes as “high,” while 40 percent see them as “about average,” he said.

However, 72 percent think the value they receive in the quality of city services is at least “good” when compared with the property taxes they pay, Morris said.

Asked what they liked most about living in Coon Rapids from list of 13 options, 23 percent responded convenient location, 18 percent housing/neighborhood, 14 percent close family/friends and 11 percent friendly people.

And 78 percent rated the overall sense of community highly, Morris said.

Compared with the 2007 survey when 12 percent listed small town feel as what they liked most about the city, that dropped to 2 percent in this survey, a reflection that residents think of Coon Rapids as suburban, according to Morris.

When asked what elements of the community should be fixed or improved, 33 percent responded streets, 13 percent Coon Rapids Boulevard and 10 percent job market, while 11 percent said nothing.

But 74 percent rated the overall appearance of the city good and 12 percent excellent, while 13 percent put it at only fair.

A majority of respondents felt that Coon Rapids had the right amount of parks and open spaces, trails and bikeways, service establishments, retail shopping and entertainment and dining and the overall quality of city services was rated excellent or good by 84 percent of those surveyed, again in the top quartile of metro area communities, according to Morris.

“Core city services, with the exception of street maintenance, receive positive ratings above 90 percent from residents able to rate the service,” Morris said.

But in pavement repair/patching on city streets, the negative rating outnumbered the positive 58 percent to 42 percent, which is a little bit higher than other suburbs, he said.

One reason the council gave approval for a community survey this year was because an update is currently under way on the city’s parks and trails master plan and the council is considering whether to seek voter approval for a park bond issue, possibly in 2013, to make improvements to existing parks since other revenue sources, notably park dedication fees from development, have dried up.

Decision Resources posed a series of questions about parks and recreation issues.

A large majority of respondents rated the city’s parks and recreational facilities either excellent, 20 percent, or good, 63 percent, and most responded that these facilities were very important, 46 percent, or somewhat important, 33 percent to their quality of life.

The parks and quality of life issue was very strong among the younger residents and seniors that were interviewed, according to Morris.

Indeed, 92 percent of those polled rated the importance of the park’s appearance to their home values as very or somewhat important, a “very impressive finding,” Morris said.

“Residents are proud of the parks and recreation system,” he said. “They also feel that both facilities and programs meet the needs of their households.”

A majority of respondents said they did not use community ballfields, Bunker Hills Golf Course, Coon Rapids Ice Center, soccer fields and outdoor ice rinks, but those that did were very positive about them.

And in the case of large community parks, smaller neighborhood parks and trails that were used by a big majority of those polled, they were rated overwhelmingly rated excellent or good.

“There was very little criticism,” Morris said.

Questions were also posed by Decision Resources about the proposed community center, of which the Coon Rapids Ice Center is considered the first phase after the majority of the council rejected an overall community center project a few years ago.

A majority of respondents, 61 percent, either strongly supported or supported construction of a community center, while 30 percent either opposed or strongly opposed and 10 percent did not know or did now answer the question.

That’s very similar to the 2007 survey response, but those strongly opposed increased from 12 to 15 percent, according to Morris.

However, 56 percent of those polled said they would likely use the facility and 42 percent said they would not.

The survey included 22 possible amenities for a proposed community center.

There was strong support, more than 40 percent, for space for senior and teen programs.

In addition, Morris said other amenities that enjoyed support were gymnasiums, indoor leisure swimming pool, community space for large gatherings, multi-purpose rooms, center for career development and training, which was a reflection of the economy, and an indoor walking and running track.

A small majority (51 percent) of respondents either strongly supported (18 percent) or supported (33 percent) the use of property taxes to fund a community center, while 41 percent were either opposed (17 percent) or strongly opposed (24 percent).

“There is much more opposition than in 2007, up to 41 percent and that would make me nervous,” Morris said.

But he said there was enough support for the community center proposal “to justify further examination.”

Moreover, survey showed that financial and program partnerships for the community center would strengthen support, according to Morris.

A large majority of those interviewed, 77 percent, strongly favored or favored the city establishing financial and program partnerships with organizations and businesses.

Earlier this month, the city hosted a meeting with potential partners in a future community center project including the Anoka County Library, Anoka-Hennepin School District, Anoka-Ramsey Community College, YMCA and Coon Rapids Athletic Association.

Councilmembers Denise Klint, Jerry Koch and Scott Schulte also attended the meeting.

According to City Manager Matt Fulton, the purpose was to get a current assessment of the potential interest in participating as a partner in a community center project.

The participants decided to invite the earlier project architect to a future meeting to help define how a future planning effort could take place, building off existing plans and how much that would cost, Fulton said.

In June, a council work session was presented with a proposal by CRAA President Ted Schmolke to build a 78,900 square-foot multi-use facility to include indoor basketball courts adjacent to the ice center.

The survey also asked demographic information about the 400 respondents and their households.

It showed that 26 percent had lived in the city 11 to 20 years, 22 percent over 30 years, 20 percent six to 10 years, 17 percent 21 to 30 years, 11 percent two to five years and 5 percent less than two years.

The age range of participants ranged from 24 percent in the 35-44 age bracket, 22 percent between 45 and 54, 19 percent from 55 to 64, 16 percent age 65 and older, 15 percent between 25 and 34 and 5 percent from 18 to 24.

The residents surveyed were almost evenly split between male and female – 49 percent male and 51 percent female.

Summing up the survey, Morris said Coon Rapids residents are satisfied with the operations of the city. “This is a very solid report,” he said.

According to Mayor Tim Howe, the survey will be put to good use.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]