Data for the 2013 Summit County Citizens Survey are in, and the results show satisfaction with both the quality of life in Summit County as well as the efficiency of county government.
The survey, which was also conducted in 2011, was administered by Richard Krannich, professor of sociology at Utah State University. According to the report, the survey hoped to gauge residents' views about quality of life, their satisfaction with government services, economic development preferences and future priorities for the county.
Of roughly 2,800 surveys distributed through the mail, 1,213 households returned completed questionnaires, a 43 percent response rate that Krannich said was high. The survey cost just under $31,000 and represented six months of work on the part of Krannich.
"You have really identical results [to 2011] in terms of overall views of most things," Krannich said. "Folks are feeling a little better about things in 2013 than 2011."
In 2011, the survey divided the sample pool between East Side and West Side residents. This year that pool was split between the West Side, North Summit and South Summit. The new distinction produced noticeable results, Krannich said.
On the subject of restricting future growth and development, West Side residents were more likely to support such measures than North Summit residents 66.9 percent of West Side residents rated placing limits on density and parcel size for future development as "very important," while only 32.9 percent of North Summit residents did so.
"On the one hand, countywide there is a broad-based agreement that growth and development are changing some of the character of the county in ways that are not positive," Krannich said. "[People] have the sense that you should keep growth under control, but [not] to infringe upon using our property the way we want to."
Staunch support of property rights and negative views of taxes, Krannich said, were more prevailing in North Summit, but he added that such voices countywide are a small minority.
"If you are in the public arena, you are more often going to hear from people who are unhappy," Krannich said. "Even if [these] people are vocal and organized enough that they seem to have a large amount of clout, as a proportion of the total population, they're not that large."
Summit County has a different development code for both the East Side and the West Side. County Manager Bob Jasper said that, based on the survey results, views about development in South Summit and the Kamas Valley are more similar to those in the West Side than South Summit. Whether that would equate to a different development code for North and South Summit remains to be seen, Jasper said.
The preservation of agricultural land and open space was important to residents in all areas, as was the importance of the quality of air and water in the county, with West Side residents placing more of an emphasis on such issues.
Residents' opinions about the efficiency of county services and the value their tax dollars get them were very positive, with North Summit residents being more likely to be dissatisfied. Jasper was surprised by such results, as the county has had to make huge cuts of late.
"In some areas, our roads deteriorated more. The sheriff was forced to cut back on highway intervention," Jasper said. "Considering we were cutting back staff and trying to reorganize and find ways to stay efficient, we must have done something right."
The reason that surveys are important to conduct periodically, Jasper said, is because they help show trends in public sentiment and opinion. The current trend of a growing population in the Kamas Valley, he said, will be an important one to watch. It is further evidence that the term 'East Side' is an oversimplification, he said.
The overall sense of satisfaction of Summit County residents, Jasper added, is indicative of the environment in which they live.
"The people are here because they love this area, and it shows," Jasper said.