Washougal releases survey results

Economic development and street maintenance need improvement, according to respondents

A majority of individuals who responded to a survey would like to receive more communication from Washougal about what the city is doing.

The four-page survey, conducted by ETC Institute, involved 411 participants, out of 1,200 people who were contacted by phone or mail. Survey recipients were randomly chosen, according to Chris Tatham, with ETC.

Of the respondents, 22 percent had attended or watched a Washougal public meeting in the last year. Fifty-one percent of the survey respondents have lived in Washougal for fewer than 10 years.

Forty-eight percent are 44 years old or younger. Fifty-three percent are male.

Twenty-one percent said their annual household income is $50,000 to $74,999.

Seventy-five percent voted in a Washougal municipal election in 2011 or 2013.

“Civic-minded people fill out surveys,” Tatham said.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they are satisfied with an overall feeling of safety in the city, while 16 percent said they are highly satisfied. Forty-six percent are satisfied and 13 percent are highly satisfied with the overall quality of life, and 49 percent are satisfied and nine percent are highly satisfied with the quality of services provided by the city.

Thirty-seven percent are dissatisfied with the value received for city tax dollars and fees, and 48 percent are dissatisfied with the availability of job opportunities.

Twenty percent of the survey respondents said they were very satisfied with the quality of service from city employees, while 43 percent indicated they were satisfied.

“We really emphasize customer service,” said City Administrator David Scott.

City services that should receive the most emphasis during the next two years included maintenance of city streets (49 percent), economic development efforts (42 percent), quality of city water utilities (32 percent) and quality of city parks (31 percent).

Forty-two percent of the respondents indicated dissatisfaction with the enforcement of cleaning up litter and debris, while 39 percent are dissatisfied with the enforcement of mowing and trimming of grass and weeds.

The city code requires the removal of overgrown or dead vegetation if it is a fire hazard or a “menace to public health and safety.”

Scott said city staff uses its judgement regarding the definition of fire hazard or menace.

“As you can imagine, during the summer months overgrown vegetation can become very dry and could potentially be a fire hazard,” he said. “We do some enforcement of overgrown vegetation in this context.”

Overgrown or dead vegetation that obstructs the use of streets or sidewalks has to be mowed or trimmed.

“In all of our code enforcement efforts, the focus of our code enforcement officer is on educating folks and gaining voluntary compliance,” Scott said. “We will resort to enforcement mechanisms when we cannot gain voluntary compliance.”

Fifty percent of the survey respondents said they do not use the library. Forty-six percent said they check out books, DVDs and other materials.

Regarding the city’s current pace of development, 24 percent said the development of retail is much too slow, and 40 percent said it is too slow.

Forty-two percent replied, “no,” when asked if they would be willing to pay more in taxes or fees to support an increase in service levels. Twenty-nine percent said, “yes,” while 21 percent said they did not know and eight percent said they do not think any levels of service need to be higher.

Seventy-one percent said they would support the property tax levy lid lift to maintain existing levels of fire, ambulance and emergency medical services. The City Council is expected to decide at the July 28 meeting, whether to put the levy lid lift issue on the Nov. 4, General Election ballot.

Sixty-five percent of the survey respondents said they would not support a new $20 annual vehicle license tab renewal fee to maintain the pavement condition of city streets. Twenty-four percent said they would support it, and 11 percent said they did not know.

“It is unlikely to be real popular,” Tatham said. “With education, you might be able to change people’s perspectives.”

Forty-two percent of the respondents said they support marijuana retail sales in Washougal. Thirty-eight percent indicated support for marijuana production and processing, also in the city.

The contract amount with ETC to administer the survey, $14,450, is in the 2014 city budget, in the category of strategic planning initiatives.

Individuals can sign up to receive emails from the city by contacting Rose Jewell, assistant to the mayor and city administrator, at rjewell@ci.washougal.wa.us.