At a workshop held prior to the regular Milford City Council meeting on Monday, September 11, Evan Miller, who is working as an International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Fellow with the City, presented information regarding a survey recently sent to residents by the National Citizen Survey (NCS) Company. The survey, which was sent to randomly selected households throughout the City of Milford, will be used as part of the Strategic Plan Update.
“Municipalities across the country are using surveys such as this one,” Eric Norenberg, City Manager, said. “The best use of the surveys is to complete them every two or three years. This one will be used as a benchmark to see what the community sees as important right now. In two or three years, when another survey is conducted, we can see where improvements have been made and where we still need to focus.”
Residents chosen to receive the survey were selected randomly by NCS. The company was given City and ward boundaries so that the samples collected were representative of the entire City and not just certain pockets. Mr. Miller said that 1,500 surveys were mailed, although 65 of them were returned undeliverable. Of the 1,435 surveys that were delivered, 411 were returned completed.
“This represents a 29 percent return,” Mr. Miller explained. “NCS says that they average between 20 and 30 percent returns for surveys, so Milford is actually at the high end for responses.” The survey looked at three pillars in communities – Community Characteristics, Governance and Participation. It then broke down the pillars into eight facets – Safety, Mobility, Natural Environment, Built Environment, Economy, Recreation and Wellness, Education and Enrichment, as well as Community Engagement.
According to the survey results, 77 percent of those who responded felt the overall quality of life in Milford was positive. They also identified Safety and Economy as top priorities in the City. The survey found that 94 percent felt that feeling safe in the community was very important and that 96 percent would strongly or somewhat support additional financial resources for safety. The survey also found that 89 percent considered economic health as very or somewhat important and that 90 percent would strongly or somewhat support additional resources spent on economic development.
“Did the survey mention how residents want us to use more funding for safety or economic development?” Councilwoman Lisa Peel asked. “Are they saying they would support tax increases or that we should use what we currently have in reserves?” Mr. Miller said that the survey did not delve into how additional funds could be allocated, just that the community appeared willing to allocate more spending for those two items.
Mr. Miller explained that 84 percent of those who responded rated Milford positively as a place to live with 78 percent believing their neighborhood was a good place to live and 75 percent believing Milford was a good place to raise children. However, 59 percent stated that they felt the availability of affordable housing was fair or poor.
“Again, there were no details in this question,” Mr. Miller explained. “Affordable housing can mean many things to many different people.”
When it came to governance, 75 percent of those who responded positively rated the quality of services provided by the City. The fire service received the highest marks with 96 percent rating it positive. Only 47 percent rated the water quality highly and code enforcement received the lowest mark with only 39 percent.
A high number of those who completed the survey, 84 percent, said they would recommend Milford as a place for someone to live, but the sense of community in the City was only 54 percent. In addition, 79 percent said they had never attended a public meeting, such as City Council, Town Hall or advisory board meeting.
“Transportation is a problem in Milford, but this City is not unique,” Mr. Miller said. “Around the country, public transportation is a problem. In Milford, 65 percent rank traffic flow on major street as positive while 42 percent rated the availability of public transportation in Milford as poor. Interestingly, 56 percent walked or biked instead of driving, a fairly high number for a City this size.”
City parks were rated positive by 72 percent of the respondents, while 75 percent actually visited a City park at least once a month. Health services in Milford were ranked by 73 percent as positive, while only 49 percent positively rated overall recreational activities. Education is another area where Milford may be falling behind. Only 49 percent positively rated overall opportunities for education and enrichment. In addition, only 29 percent rated adult education opportunities as positive while 58 percent highly rated K-12 education.
The survey also found that only 34 percent of those who responded volunteered and only 18 percent participated in a club. However, 90 percent had talked to or visited with a neighbor and 86 percent had done favors for their neighbor. Employment opportunities in Milford were only rated positively by 27 percent of those who completed the survey and only 49 percent rated it as a positive place to visit.
“The results will be passed along to Carlisle Fire Company, Milford School District and Del-Tech,” Mr. Miller explained. “The City has little control over those entities, but they may find some of the comments in the survey helpful.”
The information from the survey will now be used as the City of Milford begins holding town meetings in each ward and with community leaders to discuss the findings in greater detail and receive additional details from residents about concern and steps forward to address them. This information will be included in the City’s Strategic Plan which will be developed this fall and winter and released in 2018.
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