Survey shows what residents want in a new park

Overall satisfaction score stays at same level

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published January 13, 2016

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ROYAL OAK — Results of a recent survey revealed that resident satisfaction is above average, and showed city officials some of the elements that residents desire in a future park.

The purpose of the scientific, public opinion survey, conducted by Cobalt Community Research, was to assess the city’s overall American Customer Satisfaction Index score.

The survey was sent to 1,500 registered voters in October and November 2015, and 348 valid responses were received with a plus or minus 5 percent accuracy rate.

The city received an overall satisfaction score of 68.

“Sixty-eight is pretty solid,” said William SaintAmour, Cobalt Community Research executive director.

SaintAmour said the overall score for Michigan communities with a population between 25,000 and 100,000 currently is 60, and the same sized communities throughout the Midwest have an average score of 61.

The last time the survey was completed in Royal Oak was 2013, when the city’s score was 70.

“It has a 95 percent confidence rating, so when you look at the overall score going down a couple of points — with the plus or minus 5 percent — we’re pretty much where we were,” said Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids.

Davids explained that the same standard questions are used each year and within each community across the United States.

“So it’s true apples to apples,” she said.

SaintAmour said that, overall, the city outperformed the benchmarks in most areas, including recommended places to live, encouraging business startups and city employee knowledge.

He said for a community of Royal Oak’s size — from a data standpoint — it is in good shape.

“There were a couple of areas where the scores were low prior,” SaintAmour said, adding that the same scores remained low and eroded the city’s overall score.

Those areas included the economy and transportation infrastructure.

Questions in the transportation infrastructure category included finding available parking, public transportation options, and street maintenance and repair.

Areas of impact that the survey suggested would improve the city’s overall satisfaction score included the categories of city government/management, economy, community events, utilities, transportation, and parks and recreation.

“Parks and rec is one of the things that our residents say has high satisfaction, but also has a big impact on quality of life and issues that affect the overall score,” Davids said.

SaintAmour explained that the improvement categories listed aren’t the weakest areas of the community, but rather are the areas that would have the most leverage attached to improving the city’s overall satisfaction score. He explained that basic services like police, fire and the library are not taken into consideration when recommending categories of improvement because they are expected to function properly.

The survey showed that respondents felt the city is doing a good job with fire, police, the library, schools and shopping.

“When things are working right, it’s not on the top of people’s minds,” Davids said. “They are performing so well, people just kind of take them for granted.”

Davids said people still prioritize those areas for funding.

The survey showed residents feel that funding should be prioritized in order of police, road maintenance, fire prevention and suppression, snow removal, and water service and maintenance as the highest priorities.

Other survey results revealed that roads and snow removal remain a high priority for residents.

City officials added some questions to the survey to ask about the proposed 40-acre park on the shuttered Normandy Oaks Golf Course site.

According to results, the top elements for the proposed park in order of most important to least important were safety and security; creative play areas for children; that it look natural; that it have sufficient on-site parking; and that it have benches and gathering spaces.

Other responses garnering less than 40 percent of the vote included places to enjoy wildlife and scenery; landscaping and shade; innovative amenities for adults 55 and older; accessibility for all abilities; a variety of site amenities; areas to accommodate special events; and well-designed athletic fields.

When the attributes were broken down by age, results showed sufficient on-site parking ranked as the top response for those 55 and older. Creative play areas for children ranked as the No. 1 response from those ages 25 through 44, and as the second-highest response from those 45 through 54, and 65 and older. Security and safety was the top response for those 18 through 24, and 45 through 54, and was in the top three responses from everyone.

When asked on the survey what other elements are important when redesigning Normandy Oaks, the most recurring responses were bike and walking paths, dog park, and a pool and splash pad.

City officials said a pool has already been ruled out for the property; however, a splash pad is one of the elements under consideration.

On the survey, park amenities were listed and respondents could choose up to five or list an amenity in the “other” category.

Davids said the elements that people want in the park haven’t changed since the proposal went to voters in 2014. She said now the city is asking what residents want the park to look like.

“It seems pretty clear people don’t want a bright, modern, quirky park,” Davids said. “They want something that looks very natural and traditional.”

The full survey may be viewed on the city’s website, including a breakdown of the results by gender, age, education, residency, ethnicity, neighborhood and household makeup.

“Really you can chop up the areas six ways to Sunday to get a really good sense of how people feel,” SaintAmour said.

Davids said the next step is to take the survey results and analyze why respondents answered the way they did, and then come up with actions to make sure the city meets its residents’ needs.

Davids said conducting surveys on a regular basis helps set budget priorities.

“It also helps us engage with our citizens and set up a framework for dialogue,” she said. “It’s intended to improve the overall quality of life for our residents.”