La Plata Town Coun­cil re­views re­cent cit­i­zen sur­vey re­sults

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­

The Town of La Plata staff con­ducts an an­nual cit­i­zen sur­vey to gather opin­ions about a wide range of com­mu­nity is- sues. This year the staff used the Na­tional Cit­i­zen Sur­vey to iden­tify the cit- izens’ pri­or­i­ties and use their find­ings to de­velop strate­gic ef­forts that will help the town im­prove.

Ac­cord­ing to Town Man­ager Daniel Mears, the cit­i­zen sur­vey was con­ducted last fall and copies of the sur­vey were dis­trib­uted to the coun­cil be­fore the work ses­sion on Jan. 10. Mears said the town has been con­duct­ing this sur­vey for a num­ber of years, so the staff

has a re­port to highlight progress in the town and ar­eas to im­prove in. Town staff met with the coun­cil to gather feed­back about the sur­vey re­sults.

“This is our re­port card for the town and just a cou­ple things that popped right out is the im­prove­ment over the last cou­ple of years. The num­ber has in­di­cated to us that the se­cu­rity and safety in the com­mu­nity has went up and that is an in­di­ca­tion of the great work of our po­lice de­part­ment,” said Mayor Roy G. Hale.

The Na­tional Cit­i­zen Sur- vey (NCS) re­port is about the “liv­abil­ity” of La Plata. The NCS cap­tures resi- dents’ opin­ions within the three pil­lars of a com­mu­nity — com­mu­nity char- ac­ter­is­tics, gov­er­nance and par­tic­i­pa­tion — across eight cen­tral facets of com- mu­nity: safety, mo­bil­ity, nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, built en­vi­ron­ment, econ­omy, recre­ation and well­ness, ed­u­ca­tion and en­rich­ment and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment. The Com­mu­nity Liv­abil­ity Re­port pro­vides the opin­ions of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of 369 res­i­dents of the Town of La Plata.

In the sur­vey, res­i­dents iden­ti­fied safety as a top pri- or­ity for the in the com­ing two years. About eight in 10 res­i­dents gave high marks to the over­all feel­ing of safety in La Plata, while around nine in 10 par­tic­i­pants fa- vor­ably rated the feel­ing of safety in the town’s down- town/com­mer­cial area. All safety-re­lated ser­vices in La Plata, in­clud­ing po­lice, fire and am­bu­lance/EMS ser- vices, were given ex­cel­lent or good rat­ings by about seven in 10 par­tic­i­pants or more and tended to be sim- ilar to rat­ings seen in other com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide.

Many of the re­spon­dents’ rat­ings of La Plata as a place to live, qual­ity of life and over­all ap­pear­ance were sim­i­lar to rat­ings in other com­mu­ni­ties across the na­tion. In the case of La Plata, 86 per­cent rated the town as an ex­cel­lent or good place to live due to the town’s nat­u­ral am­bi­ence, ser­vices and ameni­ties that make for an at­trac­tive, healthy com­mu­nity.

Coun­cil­man Keith Back said what stuck out to him in the sur­vey re­sults was that the town was ranked low as a place to visit and in the area of job op­por­tu­ni­ties. He said many peo­ple live in town and work else­where be­cause there are not as many jobs in the area.

The rat­ings for the town be­ing a place to visit were lower in La Plata than in other com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. Com­pared to the na­tional bench­mark, 50 per­cent of peo­ple rated the town as a place to visit.

Rat­ings im­proved in the area of pur­chas­ing goods or ser­vices in town, but only about three in 10 re­spon­dents re­ported to be work­ing in the town — a rate lower than the na­tional bench­mark com­par­i­son.

The town also saw im- prove­ments in ar­eas in the availability of af­ford­able qual­ity hous­ing, pub­lic places where peo­ple like to spend time and the over­all qual­ity of new de­vel­op­ment, from 2014-16. In ad­di­tion, about three-quar­ters or more of res­i­dents gave ex­cel­lent or good rat­ings to the town as a place to raise chil­dren and to re­tire, as a place to live, the over­all im­age or rep­u­ta­tion of La Plata and its over­all ap­pear­ance.

“I think it shows that the cit­i­zens, even though the com­mu­nity changes ev­ery five years, it still shows that the peo­ple are OK with the ser­vice that we pro­vide — wa­ter, sewer and trash pickup — and they feel com­fort­able with the fact that they give their tax dol­lars for us to use and we are good ste­wards with it. We are main­tain­ing our side­walks and streets and we’ve done pretty good based on the fact that we have lim­ited re­sources,” said Coun­cil­man Lynn Gil­roy.

About seven in 10 res­i­dents strongly or some­what agreed that the cit­i­zen De­sign Re­view Board ef­fec­tively fos­ters high-qual­ity ar­chi­tec­ture and sig­nage within La Plata. Res­i­den­tial prop­erty main­te­nance, weeds, aban­doned res­i­den­tial prop­erty, trash and fence dis­re­pair were viewed as ma­jor or mod­er­ate code vi­o­la­tions in the town.

“It is al­ways good to hear what we’ve been do­ing well, but it’s im­por­tant to know what we need to work on so this sur­vey is a good op­por­tu­nity to see that. The town staff are ap­pre­cia­tive to have the sur­vey to check on our ser­vices,” Mears said.

The cit­i­zens’ sur­vey has been up­dated on the town’s web­site and is avail­able to the pub­lic. Res­i­dents can also view “The NCS Trends over Time” re­port filled with com­par­a­tive data from 2014-16.

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