Camas survey finds most residents satisfied with city services

Some think city should focus on fixing streets, maintaining parks

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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As Camas city officials gear up to finalize their 2018-2020 strategic plan, they asked residents for their thoughts on how the city is doing and where it can improve.

The city sent out surveys to 3,000 random households this spring, and published the results on July 10. The goal was to get 400 responses, and the survey cleared that easily, with 705 completed surveys.

“The desire was to gather some information that would help guide us when working on the strategic priorities and help to set some initiatives that could be fulfilled throughout the cycle of the plan,” Jennifer Gorsuch, administrative services director with the city, said.

The survey was handled by the ETC Institute, a market research firm based in Kansas. The survey asked residents about their level of satisfaction with Camas overall, as well as with specific city services. According to the survey, 81 percent of the residents surveyed, who had an opinion, indicated they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall quality of services provided by the city, and 85 percent of those surveyed, who had an opinion, indicated they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the overall feeling of safety in the city and overall quality of life in the city.

The city services that fared best, based on the combined percentage of surveys with “very satisfied” or “satisfied” responses were: fire, emergency medical and ambulance service (89 percent), quality of the city’s public library service (89 percent), quality of the city’s garbage service (87 percent) and the quality of city parks, trails and open space (83 percent).

The city service that received the lowest combined percentage of “very satisfied” and “satisfied” responses was maintenance of city streets. Forty-two percent of responders said they were “dissatisfied” with that city service, the most of any asked about on the survey. When asked what the city should focus on most during the next two years, the top response was street maintenance, which was selected on 62 percent of surveys, with nearly 40 percent of responders picking it as their top choice.

Public Works Director Steve Wall thought recent weather issues played into those responses.

“We had a tough winter that caused a lot of pot holes and things like that,” Wall said. “That was reflected in the responses, I think, based on the condition of the roads after the winter and all that snow.”

Still, Wall said his department wants to make sure it is ready for similar winters that might come in the future. He added that he and his department will look at ways to strengthen the city’s preventive maintenance.

The next highest response for what residents think the city should focus on in the next two years is quality of city parks, trails and open space. Residents were split on how willing they’d be to contribute to maintaining those services and adding more through taxes. When asked if they’d be willing to pay more taxes to acquire and maintain parks, trails and open space, 26 percent said they were neutral, 25 percent said they were willing, 17 percent said they were not willing, 17 percent said they were not at all willing, 12 percent said they were very willing and 3 percent didn’t know.

There was a similar varying response to a question on the survey asking residents if they’d support a $20 annual license, similar to ones used in Battle Ground and Vancouver. Those two cities implemented vehicle license fees through a transportation benefit district, meaning the money collected can only go toward transportation projects. On the survey, 34 percent said they would not support an annual license fee, 29 percent said they’d support it only if the money went for pavement maintenance, 28 percent said they’d support the fee for pavement maintenance and new road projects, 6 percent said they didn’t know and 3 percent said they’d support it if the money was only for new road projects.

Wall said there have been some general discussions in the city about the license fee, but nothing formal presented at a meeting. If the city did put one in place, he said it’d be important to see what transportation projects the city wants to complete in the next strategic plan to decide if the money would go for maintenance, new projects or a combination.

“Finding that balance is key if we were to have a new revenue source,” Wall said.

The survey also asked residents if the city could provide one new amenity to improve the quality of life in Camas, what would they want. The answers were varied, with multiple responses coming in for things like a dog park, an indoor and/or outdoor pool, more activities for teens and kids, affordable senior housing, a community center, bike lanes and pickle ball courts.

Of course, with an open-ended question there were unique answers, too. One response asked city officials to remove trees that block views of Lacamas Lake and Mount Hood, while someone else asked for a new cell tower to be installed. A sarcastic resident wrote “More brew pubs. That’s all Camas is. Should change the name to Brew Pub Central.” And one very optimistic resident asked for the city to work on getting “a new bridge to cross into Oregon from this side of town.”