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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 2 weeks ago

Town survey begins with postcards next week

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Opinions sought on town services, key issues facing the town.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

A townwide survey launches early next week with the arrival of a postcard in every residential mailbox on the island.

The first contact, scheduled to begin Jan. 13, is an icebreaker, informing residents of the project, directing them to a town webpage for basic information (is.longbotkey.org/survey) and preparing them for the arrival of another postcard the following week with detailed instructions and a unique user-number with which to complete the digital poll. It can be completed on a computer, tablet, smartphone and the town's new information kiosk in the Town Hall lobby

Questions will cover quality of life and overall satisfaction with town services, both of which are designed to be repeated annually to track performance. Also, specific questions will address key issues in town, such as county library services, opinions on the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Arts, Culture and Education Center.

What won’t be on the survey is mention of the One County initiative, an exploratory and informational effort intended to examine the benefits and weaknesses of perhaps someday moving entirely into Manatee or Sarasota counties, instead of the current split-island arrangement.

Commissioner Irwin Pastor said he gets numerous phone calls about two predominant issues in town: the first is the timetable for development of the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort property. “And the second, by far, has been the county question,’’ Pastor said. “So, we’re reaching out, probably one of the biggest things in the short history of Longboat Key has come about, and we’re having no feedback.’’

The timing of the town survey and a request by the town to Manatee County to help fund its $45 million Beach Management Plan with $2.69 million for north end groins and beach sand come at a particularly tricky period. The Manatee County Commission in December signaled initial support for such assistance, but negotiations are continuing between the town and the county. In October, town commissioners discussed the possibility of adding a question about One County to the survey but also discussed the possibility of a non-binding straw poll question on a future ballot later in 2020.

“Our concern, based on the current ask before the county, and we’re in current negotiations with them, we thought it would be appropriate to look at other opportunities to ask that question instead of right now, when we’re in active discussions,’’ Town Manager Tom Harmer said.

Vice Mayor Ed Zunz also suggested that additional education and information for citizens on the One County initiative might make for more-informed opinions at a later date, rather than adding it into the survey, data collection for which is expected to wrap up in mid-February.

Commissioners on Monday did adjust the final form of the survey. At the suggestion of Commissioner Mike Haycock, a question regarding the satisfaction with elected officials was added. Additionally, some questions were modified to allow for more than a simple multiple choice response. 

The town is expecting a report from the survey, conducted by the University of South Florida's Florida Institute of Government, by April. $20,000 was set aside in the fiscal 2020 budget to accomplish the project. Support Services Director Carolyn Brown said in 2019 the contract with USF is for $13,365, and the town would pay the mailing costs of the postcards. 

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