Citizen’s Survey outlines county’s strengths, weaknesses
Summit County residents were recently asked to share their views about their overall quality of life and they didn’t hold anything back.
According to the 2015 Citizen’s Survey, respondents revealed that the county has become a "less desirable" place to live within the last several years and participants are blaming traffic congestion, growth and development as the main culprits.
"There certainly was a shift of what we had seen before," said Richard Krannich, a Utah State University sociology professor who was contracted to do the survey. "I believe that the Envision Utah study that was done during the past year said the same thing. So for people in the state of Utah, as a whole, their view of their quality of life is changing.
"But all in all, the individual quality of life in Summit County is very good," Krannich said.
The responses indicated that 90 percent of residents consider the quality of life in Summit County to be either above average or excellent, with an emphasis on outdoor recreation, a clean environment and the county’s rural character as contributing factors to the above-average grade.
"In this survey there was an immense amount of people saying they are pretty happy, broadly, with conditions in the county," Krannich said. "In the trend data for a variety of the questions we asked we are seeing positive shifts and people are happier than in 2011 than 2013."
Respondents were asked multiple-choice questions about navigating county services and the prioritization of issues regarding economic development and funding for various programs. The Summit County Council and county manager commissioned the survey, which includes responses from 1,085 residents.
While nearly 70 percent of questions are recycled from past surveys, this year, the survey included additional questions to better reflect issues the county is currently facing, such as transportation and growth. Participants were asked how frequently they use alternate forms of transportation, what would encourage them to use public transportation, their views on improvements or expansions to the current system, and the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the community to attract new businesses.
A majority of respondents from all three areas, nearly 82 percent, said they never use public transit when they commute. However, nearly two-thirds indicated they would support a transit system expansion if rider fees were imposed to cover increased costs and bus stops were looked at closer to their homes. In all three areas surveyed, the two issues most strongly identified as weaknesses were the lack of high-quality, high-wage jobs and affordable housing, according to the survey results.
Since 2011, the survey has been distributed every two years to nearly 3,000 residents as a way to take the pulse of the county’s citizenry, Krannich said. The surveys were sent to random addresses throughout the county and targeted three areas: western Summit County, which includes the Snyderville Basin and Park City; southern Summit County, which includes Kamas, Oakley and Peoa; and northern Summit County, which includes Henefer, Coalville and Wanship.
The overall response rate was less than 40 percent, which is slightly lower than in 2013. According to the 2013 results, no respondents in any part of the county considered the overall quality of life to be either "very poor" or "below average." However, the report states that "a minority of survey participants in both 2011 and 2013 did express a belief that conditions in the county have become less desirable over the past four to five years."
A majority of participants identified themselves as year-round residents, however, the sample may have largely excluded seasonally-occupied residences, according to the report. The survey also failed to target another demographic: Hispanic residents, who make up roughly 11 percent of the county’s population, according to the report.
"I think one of the big advantages by doing this every few years is that you can look at things you have tried to accomplish and say, ‘do we seem to be making progress?’ Are we doing a better job,’" Krannich said.
"And then when we ask about economic development, really across most parts of the county, people seem to not be highly enthusiastic about it. I don think people are saying we want economic development to cease and desist, but the notion of growth and development unchecked worries people. Economic development is fine, but let’s be careful about where it is, how much it is and where it occurs. Those are the most important take-home messages," Krannich concluded.
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Councilor Glenn Wright estimated that the ability to provide renewable energy sources for county power will cost the average Summit County resident $0.70 per year above current costs.