La Plata Town Council reviews recent citizen survey results
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.