Quality of life, government performance, city service delivery and city employees received high marks from residents in a recently released Blaine city survey.
Traffic signal timing was the most commonly mentioned community service improvement mentioned by respondents who returned their mailed survey forms.
Tom Miller, president of Boulder, Colo.-based National Research Council, Inc. summarized the 2012 survey during the Blaine council’s Aug. 16 workshop.
The 2012 Blaine Citizen Survey was administered by mail in May to 1,200 randomly selected households within the city, Miller said.
The survey was equally distributed among three city council wards. Data collection was conducted through July 2.
Of those households receiving the survey, 436 residents responded to mailed and Web questionnaires, resulting in a response rate of 37 percent.
According to Miller, the Blaine survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
According to Miller, the city received ratings above or much above other U.S. communities in 53 of 83 comparisons and above or much above other Minnesota communities in 41 of 81 comparisons.
Blaine households that received the survey were asked to evaluate five aspects of life in Blaine, plus the overall quality of life.
Most residents (88 percent) rated Blaine’s overall quality of life as either “excellent” or “good.” This rating was above the national benchmark, Miller said.
Survey respondents were presented with a list of three aspects of local government performance.
The overall direction that Blaine is taking received positive ratings from two-thirds of residents (68 percent) while six out of 10 residents indicated the value of services for taxes paid was “excellent” or “good,” Miller said.
Residents were asked the degree to which run down buildings, weed lots or junk vehicles are a problem in residential areas in the city.
One-third of residents (33 percent) thought these were either a “major” or “moderate” problem, while about one-quarter (23 percent) thought that these were “not a problem,” Miller said.
Overall, residents in Blaine felt safe from various forms of crime.
Half of residents who returned surveys felt “very safe” from violent crime and an additional 40 percent felt “somewhat safe.”
Three-quarters (77 percent) of residents felt at least “somewhat safe” from property crime and drug use or trafficking.
When asked whether anyone in their households had been the victim of a crime in the 12 months preceding the survey, just 13 percent of survey respondents answered yes.
Of those who reported they were a victim of a crime, approximately three-quarters of those crimes were reported to the Blaine Police Department.
Overall service ranking
One-quarter of residents (23 percent) indicated that the overall quality of services in Blaine was “excellent” and an additional 64 percent thought it was “good.”
Thirteen percent said services were “fair” and just 1 percent felt they were “poor.” Overall service quality ratings were above national and state benchmarks.
Fire services (96 percent rated “excellent” or “good”) and garbage collection (90 percent) received the highest ratings, followed by recycling (89 percent), police services (88 percent) and sewer services (87 percent).
Importance of services
In addition to rating the quality of city services, Miller said Blaine residents were asked to rate the importance of each service.
At least half of residents saw each service as “essential” or “very” important.
Core safety services provided by the city (fire, police and crime prevention) and drinking water were assessed as at least “very” important by 97 percent or more of respondents.
Though thought to be least important of all service areas, half of the residents in the survey considered athletic field maintenance to be at least “very” important, Miller reported.
Thirty-nine percent of residents who had contact with city employees rated them very positively.
At least 8 in 10 residents rated employees as either “excellent” or “good” in all five survey categories.
More than half of these residents thought Blaine city employees’ courtesy, knowledge and overall impression were “excellent.”
Other city amenities
Residents were of multiple minds about athletic field maintenance, seeing it both as a source of community pride and possible place to reduce service.
Eight out of 10 residents thought that athletic field maintenance in Blaine was either “excellent” or “good.” About half thought that this city service was “essential” or “very important.”
Athletic field maintenance quality ratings and the city’s overall service quality ratings were closely linked, the survey indicated.
While most residents (61 percent) said they would support the city building a community center that would include sports facilities, most (58 percent) opposed the use of a property tax increase to fund construction.
Residents also were asked how important it was to them for the city to add two types of sports facilities.
Indoor and outdoor sports facilities were considered “essential” or “very important” by a minority of residents (27 percent and 25 percent, respectively).
Miller told council members volunteer opportunities were perceived as being in short supply in Blaine.
Residents indicated that they volunteered much less often than residents in other jurisdictions.
About one-third (35 percent) of residents had volunteered in Blaine at least once in the last year, he said.
“This is the cleanest survey I’ve seen in a long time,” said Councilmember Katherine Kolb.
Councilmember Dave Clark was pleased with the survey as well. “It’s information, not just data,” Clark said.
Mayor Tom Ryan said the survey reflected what he was hearing from residents regarding the quality of city services.
Tim Hennagir is at firstname.lastname@example.org