Survey plannedCouncilman Pat Nygaard got the go-ahead at the Finance and Legal Committee meeting Tuesday on distributing a community survey asking residents what they want to see happen in Jamestown.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
Councilman Pat Nygaard got the go-ahead at the Finance and Legal Committee meeting Tuesday on distributing a community survey asking residents what they want to see happen in Jamestown.
“I think it’s important as officials to have this information in guiding the city forward,” said Nygaard, who chairs the committee. “The City Council could use this in its planning efforts.”
Nygaard presented Wahpeton’s community survey to committee members asking for their feedback on the idea. He said he was meeting with a Jamestown College professor to work with the college on the project.
“They felt in Wahpeton that the survey has served their city well,” he said. “I liked it. It gets to the heart of city functions.”
Councilman Ken Schulz said he was in favor of the survey.
“I’d like to see it lead to a comprehensive long-term plan for the city,” Schulz said. “We should tie it into the JSDC (Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp.) strategic plan and the Land Use and Transportation plan.”
Nygaard was asked if the survey would be duplicating the COPS strategic plan or JSDC survey efforts. He said it had been four years since the COPS plan was developed. It was time to ask residents again what their concerns and ideas are.
Getting the survey out to a good cross-section of the community was the biggest hurdle, especially considering that there’s only a 10 to 15 percent response. Schulz said he didn’t want to see any “stuffing of the ballot box.” Wahpeton sends its survey out with the water bills, Nygaard said. But that’s not a good cross-section of the community, noted Jeff Fuchs, city administrator.
“We miss out on those who are renting or in mobile home parks,” Fuchs said. “If you’re trying to get a cross-section of the community we’d have to get another list. You only get homeowners or businesses with a water bill.”
The mailing would have to be separate anyway because the water bill is a postcard, he said. Mayor Clarice Liechty wondered if Otter Tail Power Co. could send it out as nearly everyone gets an electricity bill “or let us have their mailing list.”
“I think there’s a privacy issue there,” said City Attorney Ken Dalsted.
Fuchs suggested using the voters list for the mailing as it is public information. It also would reach a greater variety of individuals at their mailing address. It would include college students, renters and homeowners.
Councilman Charlie Kourajian floated the idea of sending it out in the newspaper and going on the radio to tell others they could pick up a survey at City Hall. That could be a problem with getting a good cross-section, however, especially with only a 10 percent return rate.
“Those who have an ax to grind are usually the ones who answer,” Kourajian said.
Committee members talked about printing and mailing costs. Discussion also covered the college’s involvement and other survey details. Nygaard said he would find out more when he met with the professor.
“I just wanted to get some feedback,” he said. “Is it something we want to go forward with?”
Kourajian suggested the survey could be used by the advisory study committee that voters wanted established to look at city government.
“The survey is a good starting point,” said Councilwoman Kelani Parisien. “It will tell the advisory committee what the community is concerned about.”
The Finance and Legal Committee unanimously approved moving forward on the survey. It will now go to the City Council for final approval. Nygaard hopes to have more of the questions answered by that meeting. He said he wants the survey to be returned in February to give the college time to tabulate the responses and finish the job by April.
“It will be a semester project,” Nygaard said.
In other business, the committee decided it wants a joint meeting of the City Council and the County Commission to move on the next step of the library consolidation voters approved earlier this month. The meeting would determine who would sit on the committee to draft the agreement. Dalsted said the two government bodies could appoint members to the committee as long as it was not a quorum of council members.
“Then every meeting would be a council meeting,” he said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org