Steamboat City Council not satisfied with effectiveness of recent community surveys
July 16, 2014
Steamboat Springs — 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.