The Aspen Times – March 12, 2014
The 2014 Pitkin County Community Survey results were released Tuesday, and it’s abundantly clear that most people are very happy to live in Pitkin County and approve of the services the county government provides.
A seven-page survey was mailed to a random sample of 3,500 households in Pitkin County, with 525 people completing the survey. Any comparisons made within the survey come from the results of the past two community surveys, taken in 2004 and 2007.
Chris Tatham is the CEO of the ETC Institute, the company that put together the survey. He presented the results to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners at Tuesday’s work session.
Tatham said the goal of the survey is to assess the perceptions about quality of life and other issues within the Pitkin County community.
“One of the things you want to take a look at is how people perceive this as a place to live and the overall quality of life,” Tatham said. “It’s very unusual for a community to have more than 50 percent of its residents give excellent ratings, and Pitkin County did that in both of those areas. When we looked at Pitkin County stacked up to other communities across the country, perceptions of quality of life and ratings of a community as a place to live are much higher then what we see in other places.”
Tatham said that in the 20 years he’s been taking surveys like this, the Pitkin County survey was one of the most positive he’s taken, as the county consistently rated good to excellent concerning how people felt about living in this area.
Nearly 96 percent of those surveyed rated the county as either good or excellent in regard to the county as a place to live. Similarly, 95 percent gave the same rating to the quality of life in Pitkin County.
Just more than three-fourths of residents rated the county as either good or excellent in regard to the quality of services provided, and 73 percent rated the county as good or excellent concerning the quality of customer service from county employees.
“When it comes to the overall value for taxes and the overall quality of county services,” Tatham said, “you’re heads and shoulders above most other communities. You’re not just a little better; you’re dramatically better.
“In fact, when it comes to overall value for taxes that people pay to their county, almost 2 out of 3 residents here gave positive ratings and thought they got decent value. In most communities, it’s only about 4 out of 10 residents that give positive ratings, so you’re 23 percent above the national average for communities with less than 20,000 residents, and you’re almost 20 percent above the national average for all communities.”
Some of the other areas of Pitkin County that received high marks within the survey are the landfill and recycling centers, personal and public safety within the county, transportation, public communication and outreach programs, clerk and recorder services, the airport and special events.
Despite the overall positives from the survey with the quality of life and how people feel about the local government, there are still concerns in areas like the economy, availability of affordable housing and job opportunities.
The survey showed that most people see Pitkin County as a great place to work, but 20 percent of the responders had concerns with employment possibilities, which may have to do with the seasonal employment situation in Pitkin County.
“It’s surprising how well we did,” said Pat Bingham, community relations specialist for Pitkin County. “I don’t think that counties go into the survey process hoping that they’ll be made to sound good in public. That’s not the reason we do them. We’re not looking for a pat on the back, but that’s kind of what happened today.
“However, we do know there are places that stand out in this survey where we have work to do. One area that stood out was mental health. This community has been hit really hard with a lot of very significant mental-health issues in recent months. While we’re pleased with the overall results, this is not a time for us to sit on our laurels and take a break; it’s a time for us to get going.”
Part of the reason for the survey was to identify areas that should be a priority for Pitkin County to address. Those major services recommended as top priorities for investment during the next two years to raise the county’s overall satisfaction rating include: the process of obtaining permits for construction or renovation, electronic recycling, protection of families from domestic violence, the county’s response to mental-health issues and the roads.
Still, Tatham sees the Pitkin County results as the kind most any community would strive for.
“When it comes to the quality of services,” Tatham said, “76 percent of the residents here gave good or excellent ratings. Nationally, it’s only about half. That speaks volumes for people’s perceptions about the county and what you’ re doing to make sure the services are provided in a way that meets the expectations they have. It’s really incredible to see these kind of numbers.”