Public’s confidence in Steamboat Springs City Council is tepid, according to community survey
Steamboat Springs — The Yampa River Core Trail, snow removal operations and services provided by Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue are among the things that received glowing reviews and support from community members in a recent survey.
Pickleball and the Steamboat Springs City Council?
Not so much.
The results of Steamboat’s first community survey in a decade reveal what citizens think about a wide range of city services and policies.
It also shows how community members think their elected officials and city staff are doing.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest findings of the survey.
Public not overly confident in council
The public’s current level of confidence in the Steamboat Springs City Council is tepid, according to the survey results.
Only 24 percent of survey respondents who live in the city limits rated their overall confidence in the City Council as good or excellent.
The remaining respondents split their answers evenly between fair and poor.
However, the current council isn’t alone in seeing less than stellar confidence levels in a community survey.
In 2005, only 16 percent of survey respondents had strong confidence in their city council, and a quarter had strong confidence in the 2002 city council.
As the current council digested the results of the survey Tuesday night, council member Tony Connell had some suggestions for how the council could improve.
“I believe we should be doing some work sessions to get the public more involved,” Connell said.
Connell also suggested the council consider some governance training and measure its results versus the amount of time it puts into making decisions.
Four in 10 residents said the job city government does at welcoming citizen involvement was excellent or good, and about one third of the residents felt the overall direction the city was taking was excellent or good.
The public’s confidence in city staff was higher than that of the City cCuncil.
According to the results, 46 of respondents said their confidence in city staff was excellent or good.
Residents see economic opportunities
Steamboat residents are not impressed with the cost of living here or the availability of quality affordable housing.
Only 8 percent of survey respondents rated the cost of living here as good or excellent.
Only 7 percent felt strongly that the availability of quality affordable housing was strong.
Residents also graded the overall economic health of the city.
Just over half of respondents rated the economic health as good or excellent. Eight percent felt the economic health is poor, and 38 percent felt it was fair.
Satisfied with city services
Overall, the survey respondents felt good about the quality of the services the city provides (14 percent rated city services as excellent, and 68 percent rated them as good).
When residents were asked to rate individual city services, fire and EMS, drinking water, city parks, sewer, snow removal and city recreation programs ranked the highest with more than 80 percent of residents giving all of these an excellent or good rating.
Land use, planning and zoning received the lowest marks from residents, with only 40 percent of residents giving these services the good or excellent rating.
Police services was rated positively by 57 percent of survey respondents.
Police rating low
The relatively low rating survey respondents gave to police services caught the eye of some city council members.
Community members ranked the police services as one of the most essential services in the city but gave the police a lower quality rating than many other services.
“We’ve got to solve that disconnect,” council member Tony Connell said.
He noted the quality rating for the police department is much lower in Steamboat than it is in other communities that the National Research Center has surveyed.
Council member Kenny Reisman noted that the survey went out to residents right after a former police detective started circulating a letter in the community that accused the city’s police chief and deputy police chief of misconduct.
Reisman said the council needed to acknowledge the release of the letter and the publicity surrounding it probably “skewed” the rating for police services.
High quality of life
Nine out of 10 survey respondents rated their overall quality of life in Steamboat as excellent or good.
They also overwhelmingly viewed Steamboat as a great place to live and a great place to raise children.
In addition, 97 percent of survey respondents feel safe in the city, and 86 percent rated the overall image of the community as good or excellent.
Environment tops funding priorities
Noting it has “limited resources and must make hard decisions about funding,” the city asked its residents what its funding priorities should be.
Residents responded that protecting our air and water quality was most important to them, followed closely by preserving natural areas, habitats and open land.
Items that weren’t viewed as essential or very important by a majority of residents included encouraging a mix of housing, shopping and offices in the same area, limiting growth, encouraging growth and enhancing summer marketing.
Broad support for Core Trail. PIckleball not nearly as popular.
Community members were asked to rate the importance of a wide range of recreational activities and amenities in the city.
The public indicated the Yampa River Core Trail was the most essential and important amenity in the city.
The Core Trail was followed closely by other bike and pedestrian baths and summer use of Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain.
Pickleball was rated the least essential activity.
Disc golf, equestrian activities and tennis at Howelsen Hill and at the Tennis Center of Steamboat Springs joined pickleball near the bottom of the list.
Less than a third of respondents rated these activities or amenities as essential or very important.
Council members plan to use the survey to help guide their future funding decisions.
The results also are not being looked at in a vacuum.
For several of the survey questions, the National Research Center was able to compare the local ratings to that of several other communities of a similar size to Steamboat.
There was also a separate comparison to resort towns with less than 30,000 residents from around the country.
For example, respondents in Steamboat rated the local shopping opportunities much lower than that of other resort communities.
The quality of snow removal here was rated much higher.
City staff plans to look at the services that rated much lower than other communities, such as police services, and look for ways to improve them.
The city will also take a look at communities where services rated much higher than Steamboat’s and see how they achieve the higher level of satisfaction.
Look for more stories about the community survey, including the public’s views on affordable housing policies, in an upcoming issue of the Steamboat Today.
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Engineering work to further assess needed upgrades at wastewater treatment plants in Milner and Phippsburg will cost at least $125,000, though where the money will come from hasn’t been decided yet.