Steamboat City Council not satisfied with effectiveness of recent community surveys


— Not satisfied with the response rate to a flurry of recent community surveys, some Steamboat Springs City Council members weren't ready Tuesday night to send a new set of questions out to the community.

"We're in a slump with our surveys," council member Kenny Reisman said.

As proof, he cited a low feedback rate on the Area Community Plan and a Howelsen Hill survey that is "barely catching steam."

"This is the jewel of the city everyone cares about and we got back 400 responses so far?" Reisman asked. "What number is going to make us say 'Yeah, we gotta act on that.'"

The city opened the survey to the general public online after the survey got too low of a response rate from a random sampling of residents.

Reisman's declaration of a "survey slump" came amid council's discussion of a new community survey that is possible for 2015.

The council ultimately decided to delay any decision on such a survey until September and after more discussion about what the survey would try to accomplish.

The low response rates of some recent surveys in Steamboat weighed heavily on some council members.

With little response to current surveys, council members questioned whether a new one would generate enough feedback to be meaningful and help guide policy.

"I'm on the fence on this (survey) until we really know what we're going to do with it," council member Scott Myller said.

City staff estimated it could cost as much as $30,000 to conduct another statistically valid survey, with the cost dependent on how many people the council would like to reach.

Council President Bart Kounovsky questioned whether a new survey would be worth the cost.

"I'm struggling with this a little bit myself," Kounovsky said. "Boy, we're not very good with these surveys. Our past performance has been very, very poor on this. Unless somebody up here can tell me what we're going after, I'm struggling with this."

There were some council members who said a new survey could be meaningful if done correctly.

That is, if it was done in a way that could effectively gauge the opinion of the community with a minimal margin of error.

"I think we could get some important information about if we do need to increase services or generate more funds, what does our community think is worth paying for and what don't they think is worth paying for," council member Sonja Macys said.

Like other council members, Macys questioned the effectiveness of current surveys.

She noted the current survey about Howelsen Hill can be completed a number of different times by the same person from several computers.

"One of the issues that we've had with the way we've been doing these surveys is we've been doing them in house without the expertise of getting a statistically significant and scientifically accurate response," Macys said.

The city has conducted three community surveys in the past 15 years.

They were done in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

The council was presented with the data from all of those surveys Tuesday night.

The surveys offered some insight into residents' feelings about city services and what their funding priorities were, among other things.

The city currently has two surveys out.

One is on the future of Howelsen Hill and the other is about downtown parking.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


jerry carlton 2 years, 9 months ago

Tired of spending tax dollars on surveys? Think government pays no attention anyway? Tired of big government trying to get bigger? Maybe young people are just too busy? I took the Pilot survey and won no prize but got two cool coupons. Maybe the city should offer coupons?


Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

But city councilman's Scott Ford's monthly meetings on local issues seem to be well attended and attract people of diverse viewpoints. So the public isn't bored of public issues.

The other question that city council should be asking is whom is responsible for writing these surveys. The surveys consistently have biased questions and feel more like a push poll attempting to convince the survey takers of the city's plans than asking for their current opinions.

If you figure that the people whom disagree with the viewpoint of the survey are giving their answer by not answering the survey then there would be a statistically valid sample. And the answer is there isn't public support for a huge spending program for parks and rec, for instance.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

And it isn't just the Howelson survey that is a mess.

The parking survey asks if you live downtown. Well, I thought the parking issue was regarding the area including Lincoln, Yampa and maybe Oak St. How is a resident along Missouri answering whether they park on the street or off street matter to the discussion of the parking in the downtown commercial core?

And how does ratings of 1-5 for everything indicate anything of value? Needed far more objective questions on the person's expectations. If the survey taker is used to Oak Creek and expects to immediately find a parking space in front of their desired store then SB is going to have a parking problem. If the survey taker is used to parking in San Francisco then being able to spend less than 15 minutes to find a spot within 5 blocks means SB has no parking issues. Thus, a parking survey needs questions asking how long it takes to find a spot how close and then the question on whether that is good or bad.

The reason 1-5 on feelings becomes pointless is that if the expectation is parking as available as Oak Creek then there is no possible solution in downtown SB to allow that.

But if people say it takes too long to find a spot within 3 blocks and if we asked where in downtown is their destination then we would know where there is a lack of parking.


John St Pierre 2 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps the low response is due to the fact that the surveys are ignored.....


Fred Duckels 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't do surveys. Invariably they are set up with parameters to limit responses to the agenda of the day. Also meetings to solicit info are run by a facilitator and completely packaged to make sure things go as planned..


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