City of Camas to survey residents

Last survey, conducted in 2019, showed residents satisfied with most services

Camas officials are hoping a 2022 citywide community survey will shed some light on how Camas residents feel about their city government and the services it provides.

The city had been reaching out to its residents every two years, completing citywide surveys in 2017 and 2019. But, like many aspects of city government, the community survey was put on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, city officials are ready to survey their citizens once again.

Camas Director of Communications Bryan Rachal told Camas City Council members in August he hoped to use ETC, the same contractor who conducted the city’s 2017 and 2019 community surveys, and that the 2022 survey would cost about $17,000.

“ETC is ready to go. They’re just waiting for us,” Rachal told council members during their Aug. 15 meeting.

Rachal said the city would likely want to use the same questions it had asked residents in 2017 and 2019 — “to benchmark against ourselves and other cities” — but could also add a few unique questions, possibly regarding a future public swimming pool in Camas; the city’s form of government, which currently uses a “strong mayor” type of government instead of the council-manager form of government commonly used in smaller and medium-sized cities throughout Washington state; or the city’s rules regarding the sale and discharge of fireworks during the Independence Day and New Year’s Eve holidays.

“The initial idea was to add three questions — ETC said that wouldn’t cost us any more,” Rachal said. “But we do want to keep the survey relatively short.”

Councilwoman Leslie Lewallen said she hoped to see a question regarding transportation and the future Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project on the 2022 community survey.

“It would be nice to have city input as it does impact our citizens,” Lewallen said.

But Councilman Greg Anderson, the city’s representative for C-TRAN, the regional public transportation agency, said he wasn’t convinced that the city’s community survey needed to include a question about the I-5 Bridge project.

“We need to have more conversations about transportation as a whole,” Anderson said, “But … Camas is miles away from the (I-5) bridge impact zone. It has some impacts, but I’m a little concerned about the value of the question (on Camas’ community survey).”

Councilwoman Marilyn Boerke said she was interested in the city exploring citizens’ response to learning more about the form of government, but not in asking residents if they favor one form of government over another.

Councilwoman Bonnie Carter said in August that she views the community survey as one of many tools that can help city officials make policy decisions.

“When we frame questions regarding policy … the wording is important,” Carter noted. “If we’re asking about fireworks or a pool, we’re not basing policy off the results (of the community survey). We’re taking (the survey results) into consideration, along with other data.”

City’s 2019 survey showed high levels of satisfaction with most city services

The city’s last community survey, conducted in 2019, before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, received feedback from 429 households and had a confidence level of 95%.

The 2019 community survey showed Camasonians’ overall perception of the city was high, with 81% of residents surveyed saying they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall quality of city services.

Even more residents said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the quality of life in Camas (83%) and with the overall feeling of safety in the city (87%).

The city services that received the highest levels of satisfaction in the 2019 community survey included fire, emergency medical and ambulance (85%), garbage (85%), police (85%) and library (83%).

Survey respondents in 2019 also gave high satisfaction marks to the following city services: the city’s fire and rescue emergency response times (83%), visibility of police in the community (82%), the Camas Public Library’s events for children (80%), the selection of resources available at the public library (78%), the appearance and maintenance of Camas’ existing parks (77%), the adequacy of the city’s street lighting (75%), the quality of facilities in Camas’ city parks (74%) and the quality of outdoor athletic fields (70%).

Areas that needed improvement, with fewer than 50% of 2019 community survey respondents saying they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with current city services included: enforcing the mowing and trimming of grass and weeds (33%), managing growth and development in the city’s boundaries (34%), enforcing litter and debris cleanup (35%), on-street bicycle infrastructure (40%), enforcing sign regulations (41%), the level of public involvement in city decision-making (44%), the city’s social media (46%) and timeliness of information provided by the city (47%).

The majority of the 2019 survey respondents (73%) said they felt the city’s maintenance of city infrastructure should be “much higher” or “a little higher.”

Asked how they receive news and information about the city of Camas’ programs, services and events, 52% of respondents said they get their city news from direct mailers, 40% said they receive city of Camas news from The Camas-Washougal Post-Record and 37% said the receive city news from The Post-Record’s sister publication, The Columbian.

Rachal said the city’s goal is to complete the survey in 2022.

“We would like to get this done before the year’s done,” Rachal told city officials in August, “but we could start in 2022 and have results provided to us in January (2023).”