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Citizen satisfaction survey gets green light from city council

DEL MAR — Three months after agreeing to conduct a survey to gauge residents’ satisfaction with city services, council members agreed 4-0 at the May 5 meeting on the method that will be used, a decision that will cost about half of what was originally budgeted.

Council authorized staff at the Feb. 3 meeting to begin the process to conduct a survey, something that hasn’t been done since 2006.

But in April, when they were slated to award a $15,000 contract to Probolsky Research, council members concluded the methods that were going to be used would garner relatively useless information.

City staff worked to create several other options, which were presented May 5.

With Mayor Lee Haydu absent, the remaining council members opted to conduct the survey using in-house staff as well as a consultant for a cost of $8,400.

Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager, said that plan is similar to the proposal council opposed in April, but it should provide more in-depth data.

The consultant will work with staff and City Council to develop the questions, create and host the Internet portion and analyze and report the data.

City staff will design, print and mail postcards and coordinate marketing for the Internet survey. Phone surveys will also be conducted.

This method will allow residents to share their thoughts on how the city is performing and result in a more efficient use of city staff time.

The least expensive option – conducting the survey completely in-house — was estimated to cost about $5,000 but it would have been time-consuming for staff and lacked the expertise of a consultant.

Crane said another option would be to not proceed with the survey and use the $15,000 to launch a web-based community engagement model for continuous input.

For example, the city could pose a question and provide education. Residents could then weigh in with their thoughts, which council members could use for decision making.

“These types of surveys are considered by local government managers to be a really effective tool to help gauge what the community’s priorities are, how we’re doing with different services,” Crane said.

In March, Encinitas agreed to launch this type of community outreach using a service known as Peak Democracy.

Councilman Terry Sinnott said the suggestion “is a valuable thing for us to work towards.”

“I would still, though, like to get a quick snapshot of how we’re doing this year,” he said.

Councilman Don Mosier agreed.

“I see an advantage of doing that in the future, but it’s really a little bit different than what was envisioned by this survey,” he said.

Mosier said using city staff and consultants would likely still produce a survey that results in some uncertainty.

“But we’ll get a sense of what the satisfaction level is,” he said. “And we just have to remember that we don’t take it too seriously, but we’ll probably see the big problems if they’re          out there.”


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