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December 18, 2012
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Aspen survey indicates voters satisfied with city services

ASPEN - The city's annual survey that asks Aspen voters whether they are satisfied with their overall quality of life and the level of municipal services doesn't have a whole lot of surprises this year, according to the report released Monday.

Generally, as in most years, the city received good grades from the community in the 2012 survey, which was conducted in September. Forty-seven percent said they were satisfied with city services, and 42 percent were somewhat satisfied. A mere 3 percent were "not at all satisfied," the results show.

Also, 97 percent ranked their quality of life in Aspen as excellent (66 percent) or good (31 percent), up from 95 percent last year, the survey says.

Conducted by the National Research Center, of Boulder, the $12,000 survey measured responses from 346 local residents. In all, 1,200 voters were asked to participate, and 346 did, giving the survey a 31 percent response rate, up from 25 percent last year.

The margin of error was determined to be plus or minus 5 percent on most questions; it was higher in the instances in which more than half of the respondents could not answer a question because it was not applicable to them or they did not know enough to answer it, the research firm said.

R. Barry Crook, assistant city manager, said the survey indicates that local residents still have some of the same concerns as in previous years. They have issues about dog owners who let their pets roam freely on city trails despite the leash laws. They also have concerns about pedestrian safety at the Main Street crossings between the S-curves and the downtown area.

Another top concern expressed in the report, Crook said, is Roaring Fork River water quality. But the city has spent a lot of money over the past few years on projects that will better filter contaminants in the runoff from the city's core to the river, he pointed out.

In the report, some expressed negativity toward the Burlingame II affordable-housing project, which the City Council green-lighted in the fall. Construction on a portion of the 82 units planned for the first phase of the project likely will begin in the spring.

"I think that simply reflects sort of differences in the community about whether we need additional affordable housing or not," Crook said. "Some people just don't believe that we need to be adding to the inventory. Some of it is people who don't think we should be subsidizing housing."

There also might be a residual negative effect on Burlingame II from the controversies surrounding the Burlingame I project a few years ago, he said.

Most city departments came out with high marks, the survey indicates. The Red Brick Recreation Center, Wheeler Opera House, City Clerk's Office, Finance Department service window, electricity utility and Police and Parks departments received the overall highest evaluations, with 91 percent of respondents saying they were satisfied.

The city also sought to gauge the extent to which residents support expanding the use of its website to handle transactions in an effort to reduce city costs. Nearly all respondents, 92 percent, supported the idea.

Survey participants also expressed concerns about appropriate building heights in the downtown area and bike-friendly transportation options in the city.

Also in the survey, a measure of negativity was aimed at the City Manager's Office and the Parking Department, Crook said. He suggested that some of that was a response to the city's direction on controversial issues, such as the Castle Creek hydroelectric project. Voters narrowly rejected completion of the hydroelectric plant through an advisory question on the Nov. 6 ballot.

A full copy of the survey is available by accessing the city's community relations web page at www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/CommunityRelations. Once there, click on the link that says "2012 City of Aspen Citizen Survey Results."

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 18, 2012 07:14AM Published Dec 18, 2012 12:10AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.