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County reveals results of citizen survey
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Screenshot by SUZETTE PORTER
Sarah Lindemuth of HCP talks about results of a recent citizen’s survey during the April 8 Pinellas County Commission work session.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala says results of a recent citizen’s survey show improved confidence in many areas.

Speaking at an April 8 work session, LaSala said the telephone survey was “very, very accurate” and provided “a very precise bit of feedback from our citizens.”

Sarah Lindemuth of HCP, a national research, strategy and marketing firm headquartered in Tampa, agreed, saying the 2014 results showed the highest percent of favorable responses on quality of life questions since the county implemented the use of an annual survey in 2011.

The “random digit dial telephonic survey,” conducted Feb. 1-17, involved 800 residents – 200 from north county, 200 from mid county, 200 from south county and 200 residents who live on the beaches.

The goal: “to measure citizen expectations and perceptions regarding key drivers for citizen qualify of life, to determine strengths and opportunities for improvements,” according to Lindemuth’s PowerPoint presentation.

She said the survey included calls to the county’s large base of long-term residents as well as newer residents, who tend to be younger, have children and higher levels of income. She said the strongest “ambassadors” for the county are age 65 and older, those new within the past 10 years, those with higher education and incomes above $50,000.

The number who said they would recommend Pinellas as a place to retire, live, raise children and/or work increased – some significantly - as compared to 2012 and 2013 survey answers. Nine out of 10 said they would recommend the county as a place to live and retire, and almost nine in 10 would recommend Pinellas as a place to work and raise children.

“Perceptions of current quality of life, compared to five years ago, significantly improved versus 2013, continuing an upward trend,” she said. “More respondents indicated optimism for future quality of life.”

She also reported that citizens’ “trust and confidence” in county government “significantly exceeds trust and confidence levels reported in a National Gallup Poll.” Few of those surveyed said they had plans to move from Pinellas within the next year.

Most who participated in the survey said the county is “better aligning with expectation on a majority of community characteristics.

Results were not as favorable as to meeting expectations for transportation and economic factors,” she said.

The biggest gap was for traffic flow.

Pinellas has a “strong base of tenured residents” – nearly four in five, or 79.9 percent, have lived in the county for more than 10 years. The survey showed an 11 percent increase in new residents, those who have lived in Pinellas for four years or less.

Lindemuth pointed out a few statistical differences between responses from residents of unincorporated areas versus those who live in incorporated (municipalities) area in terms of whether expectations are being met. The biggest differences were reported in water drainage management and having a point of contact for concerns.

In unincorporated areas, 82.5 percent said the county was meeting expectations for water drainage management as compared to 76.2 percent in incorporated areas.

As to a point of contact for concerns, 78.7 percent of those surveyed in unincorporated areas said expectations were being met for having a point of contact for concerns, 3.8 percent said expectations were exceeded and 14.8 said expectations were not being met.

In municipal areas, 67.4 percent said the availability of a point of contact met expectations, 9.9 percent said it exceeded expectations and 6.5 percent said expectations were not being met.

“Responses exude more optimism than in prior studies for quality of life,” Lindemuth said, when talking about the trends shown by the survey. “Citizens continue to challenge the county on the topics of economy, transportation and the natural environment.”

Other trends of note reveal “job-related challenges,” she said.

“Reaction to select transportation topics suggests congestion remains a detractor to overall resident experience,” she added

LaSala said he was pleased with the results.

“I’m proud of what this tells us,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean there is not room for improvement.”
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