County residents satisfied according to study

By Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County – Sixty-two per cent of residents find the quality of life in Sturgeon County to be excellent or very good according to a satisfaction survey conducted by Banister Research and Consulting Inc.

Banister’s Tracy With told County Council Tuesday 400 telephone interviews were conducted by her company between Nov. 23 and 30, 2011 with County residents ages 18 and over. Those results reveal residents are generally pleased with life in the County.

Twenty per cent of respondents said they believed the quality of life in Sturgeon County was excellent; another 42 identified quality of life as being very good. A further 31 per cent consider life in Sturgeon County to be good. Ninety-two per cent of survey respondents said they would recommend Sturgeon County to others as a place to live.

A variety of factors contributed to that sense of satisfaction. Proximity to Edmonton and proximity to services and amenities resonated with 32 per cent of respondents, while 23 per cent said they enjoyed the rural lifestyle and country living. Another 17 per cent identified the County as being quiet and peaceful.

Although only 7 per cent of respondents said quality of life in Sturgeon County was fair or low, there were a number of factors that went into those survey opinions. Poor road conditions and maintenance accounted for 32 per cent of those dissatisfied but 15 per cent of those who said they were satisfied identified road quality as an item that added to Sturgeon County’s attractiveness.

Personal safety and property security rated high marks for the County with 83 per cent of respondents giving the County a four or five on a scale of 1-5. Seventy-five percent gave a four or five on the same scale with respect to property security in Sturgeon County.

Services also providing satisfaction

Overall satisfaction with County services rate high with those taking the survey. Nine per cent said they were very satisfied, and another 83 per cent of respondents gave the County a three or four on a scale of 1-5. Seventy-nine per cent said the quality of services had remained the same or improved over the past 12 months.

Some of the individual services receiving high approvals of four or five include emergency fire services (73 per cent), winter road maintenance (49 per cent), mowing ditches (48 per cent), community events (48 per cent), and parks and playground spaces (47 per cent).

The survey identifies a number of key service strengths: emergency fire services, solid waste disposal services, and water and wastewater utility services. Secondary strengths include summer maintenance of recreation trails, community events, parks and playgrounds, and recreational programs.

One of the greatest strengths Sturgeon County is offering its residents seems to be staff themselves; 80 per cent of respondents found County staff to be courteous, and 69 and 68 per cent found staff helpful and knowledgeable, respectively.

Residents seem less pleased with Council, however. Thirty-four per cent gave Council a four or five with respect to the question of whether Council represents the interests of all County residents. Only 28 per cent felt their priorities were being well represented by Council.

On the matter for value for taxes, 32 per cent of respondents felt they were getting a fair value for their tax dollars. Only 16 per cent felt they were getting a poor value for their tax dollars.

But regardless of opinions on value for their tax dollar, coughing up additional tax dollars was not popular with those who took the survey. While 60 per cent supported the County paving more roads, only 36 per cent said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to make it happen. Similarly, 66 per cent of respondents were in support of enhanced grading and gravelling on the County’s unpaved roads; however, only 38 per cent said they would be willing to pay higher property taxes to support it. But respondents were not all opposed to funding services. Fifty-four per cent of survey takers said they would support an inflationary tax increase to maintain the current level of services offered in the community.

Room for improvement

The survey results identify some areas where residents feel there is room for improvement. Primary areas of improvement identified by the consulting firm were sewer services, winter and summer road maintenance, bylaw enforcement, and land use planning and zoning. Secondary areas of improvement include mowing in ditches and municipal reserve, winter maintenance of recreation trails, building permits and inspections, and weed control.

Council and administration will spend some time analyzing the survey data and administration has been asked to come up with suggestions regarding the areas respondents identified as needing improvement.

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