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Longboat Key Thursday, Apr. 9, 2020 1 year ago

Town survey hits high marks for quality of life

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About 97% of respondents called Longboat an excellent or good place to live.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

While that phrase didn’t appear anywhere in the town’s 2020 Citizen Survey, conducted over about a month beginning in mid-January, the sentiment seemed to carry through.

Dr. Stephen Neely of the University of South Florida’s School of Public Affairs delivered a report on the survey’s findings to town commissioners on Monday, and he marveled at the high marks the town received.

“The survey results were very impressive,’’ he said. “These were some of the most impressive results I’ve seen. The town has a lot to be proud and excited about.’’

The town was highly regarded in the survey.

Focusing initially on the survey’s overall quality of life responses, Neely said 97% of the responses were in the “excellent” or “good” range.

Neely said he could only recall one other survey of Tampa Bay area municipalities that approached that number, but did say that traffic was mentioned in open-ended questioning of respondents as an issue that could adversely affect residents’ viewpoints.

USF’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government helped design the survey with the town, administered it and analyzed the data. Sarasota County similarly surveys its residents as a means of establishing customer-service baselines and also gauging interest in policy initiatives.

In all, 8,741 invitations to take part in the online survey were mailed to town residences, and 597 (about 6%) were completed.

“6% might not sound very big, but the response rate on this type of survey is about 1% to 2%,’’ Neely said. “That is a really good response rate. That gives us confidence the information we’re looking at is solid. “

The survey’s questions focused on six general categories: quality of life in town; town amenities; municipal services; communication with citizens; priorities and policy initiatives.

When formulating the survey questions, town commissioners and administrators sought guidance on projects or issues often discussed officially with no positions on ways forward.

When asked about support for “A privately (donor) funded and operated Arts, Cultural and Education Center in the Town Center,’’ survey respondents signaled a small majority of support. Yes responses totaled 51.3% with no responses totaling 24.8% -- 24% responded they were unsure.

“There might be some lack of awareness still of what that proposal might include,’’ Neely said.

The town for years has discussed building a center on land adjacent to the Public Tennis Center but was dealt a blow last year when Ringling College of Art & Design backed away from working with the town on raising money and operating such a facility. Since then, town leaders have committed to preparing the land as an outdoor venue with a series of basic improvements.

 When asked what amenities they would enjoy seeing at an ACE Center if built, 55.9% of respondents said lifelong learning; 51.8% said performing arts; 39.2% said technology education; 38.5% said music and music appreciation. Beyond those responses, 23.8% said arts education; 21.8% said manual arts (such as jewelry making or woodworking) and 3.7% said creative writing.

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