Survey questions

Some want to know chamber's role in survey

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— Questions have risen over how Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association names found their way onto the list used to survey people in Steamboat's 2002 Community Survey.

Mike Simone of RRC Associates, the Boulder-based consulting firm that did the survey, said names of chamber members are not typically included in the lists used for community surveys. And he said of the 4,080 surveys, his firm sent out 500 names from the chamber list at the request of city officials.

But Councilman Steve Ivancie said the City Council never voted or directed the survey consultants to include chamber names in the survey sample.

"At no time was the chamber list, as I recall, requested. And I would have preferred it not to be used," Ivancie said.

Ivancie asked if the chamber list was used during RRC's presentation to the council on May 7. And he also said that residents have asked him about the survey's sampling of chamber members.

Council minutes show on Feb. 5 that the council did direct staff to put a cap on the number of requested surveys, to delete a question on the survey about an airport authority and to mail the surveys to 4,000 people and conduct 300 phone surveys in Steamboat at the cost of $26,000. Nothing was written about extending the scope of the survey to out-of-town business owners.

But City Council President Kathy Connell said the city's decision to use the chamber's list came from the council's discussion to include those who own businesses in Steamboat but do not live here.

"We wanted to use as many lists as we had. And one of the things we wanted to be sure to sample from were people who own businesses but may not live in Steamboat," Connell said.

"One of the things we heard is that we needed to not just concentrate on making our town a nice place to live but making it so it is affordable for businesses to live here. Getting business input is as important as people who don't own businesses," she said.

Connell said that if the city had a business-licensed list, the consultants would have used it instead of the one from chamber members. And she also noted the city allowed anyone who was not mailed a survey to request one to fill out.

The chamber list was one of four lists used to sample area households and business owners. The list of registered voters, the assessor's list and a purchased mailing list were also used. However, Simone said the consultants pulled 500 names from the chamber's 900-member list separately in attempts to target Steamboat business owners that lived out of the city limits. Simone said of the 500 chamber surveys sent out, 144 were returned, which represents 13 percent of the total surveys returned.

Simone said people could have very easily been on all four lists. And that was one of Ivancie's major concerns with using a chamber list.

He said a chamber member had a good chance of also being a registered voter and owning property, which would mean their name showed up on the sample list at least three times as opposed to someone who was just a renter, whose name would only appear on the mailing list once.

"This is a group that could basically skew the results of any survey," Ivancie said.

Residents under age 34 had the least representation in the survey as they accounted for just 12 percent of the total. Renters also made up 12 percent of those surveyed.

Former City Councilman Ken Brenner also had concerns with using a chamber list and said the survey would have been more in tune to the wants of the Steamboat community had it just stuck with the list of registered voters.

"We are including a group in the decision-making process that doesn't live here that is not a registered voter. It is expanding the scope of government to a whole new level. I can't even comprehend why this is a part of our decision-making process," Brenner said. "Registered voters to me is the group of people we want to poll to find out how they feel about the community."

Preliminary results printed by RRC identified the survey sampled all households in Steamboat Springs, including renters and owners, second homeowners living out of the area, season residents and year-round permanent residents. It also sampled business owners who have businesses in Steamboat Springs but live outside of the city limits.

In the demographic breakup, 40 percent of those surveyed were business owners, 87 percent homeowners and 82 percent year-round residents.

Head consultant Nolan Rosall said in a preliminary run he did not think there were any statistically significant variances for the survey answers of business owners and non-business owners.

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