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Tuesday, Sep. 23, 2014

Survey says: Citizens offer input on town

Sunday, November 9, 2003

(Photo)
Collin Cecil, Sikeston code enforcement officer, inspects a condemned structure.
SIKESTON - A total of 154 surveys were filled out and returned to city officials with a central theme of "cleaning up the town...putting a new coat of paint on things," according to City Manager Doug Friend.

The survey results should give officials an idea of the "varying degrees of support" for the categories listed: housing, transportation, police/fire services, parks and recreation, and community service, Friend said. "These are things everyone is trying to do," he said. "It's hard to disagree with the importance of most things on here."

While what those numbers mean is open to interpretation, to city staff it appears those who took the time to return a survey have identified three key issues, according to Friend: cleaning up the town, maintaining public safety and bringing in new jobs. "All in all, there were no great surprises," he said.

* Housing: This category received the highest marks.

Enforcement of building standards/codes was identified as being very important or important by 99 percent of respondents.

Both enforcement of property maintenance standards and the demolition of condemned buildings were marked as very important or important on 98 percent of the surveys, and 96 percent thought enforcement of minimum housing standards on residential rental properties is very important or important.

Written comments from the survey on housing seem to indicate that a reduction or even elimination of Section 8 housing is highly desired.

* Police/Fire Services: With 90 percent of respondents calling for a greater implementation of neighborhood watch programs, the survey "indicates citizens want to be involved," Friend said.

The Community Oriented Policing philosophy also got a vote of confidence with 85 percent stating it is very important or important to see greater implementation of COPS in Sikeston.

A little over half of those surveyed - 56 percent - believe construction of a new police/fire headquarters is very important or important.

* Jobs and the economy: Questions on this topic found under the "community services" category also scored extremely well.

Enticing industries to Sikeston with better wages and benefits received very important and important marks of 98 percent; promoting more retail development scored a 91 percent total between very important and important responses.

Friend said retail and entertainment opportunities would also expand the city's tax base, helping the budget on the revenue side instead of with more reductions in services. He said the city is still in a situation of using reserves to cover deficit spending. "It's not something that any business can do for very long," Friend said.

Friend said he appreciates the candor with which comments were made on the survey. "I realize as hard as we try to meet the expectations of the citizenry, sometimes it's good for us to get comments to make us understand and appreciate what our roles are," Friend said. "We don't want to do any more or less than the public wants us to."

Friend said lots of useful information was also gathered from the written comments. Many comments, however, seem to be in conflict with what the survey's results show or with other comments.

One respondent writes that Sikeston "definitely does not need any more stop lights" while several other comments name specific locations where they believe a traffic signal is needed, such as at Highway 61 and HH/ZZ. "Seventy-five percent said they wanted to see that," Friend said. "This community wants that lighted signal out there."

One comment calls for sidewalks; another says the sidewalks on Salcedo Road were "a complete waste of taxpayer money!"

As for the Council's take on the survey, "they have looked at it but they haven't met to discuss it yet," said Linda Lowes, director of governmental services.

Friend assured the Council will not base decisions solely on this survey, but consider it "just another tool for them to utilize."

The staff plans over the next couple of weeks, "to have some formal dialogue with them," Friend said.