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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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Survey: Residents less satisfied with services in Ridgefield

City officials see a need for better communication and are responding

By , Columbian staff writer

Results from the city of Ridgefield’s most recent community survey are in. The survey found residents are slightly less satisfied with their city’s government, a trend that City Manager Steve Stuart said is being seen across the state and nation.

Stuart presented the survey results to the city council during its Jan. 26 meeting. This is the third community survey the city has done, with previous ones done in 2015 and 2019.

“We do this periodic check-in with our residents to track the importance of the services we provide and how we’re providing them,” Stuart said in an interview Wednesday. “When we first saw the results, it said there was a softening of our scores between 2019 and 2022. And it was across the board. The surprise was how that compared to the softening of scores in other jurisdictions. … We compare our performance versus similarly sized cities in Washington, in the West and nationally. There was an overall dip in residents’ satisfaction with local governments across the country.”

Stuart said the survey looks at not only how well the city is delivering services — whether it’s improving in some areas, doing worse in others or doing the same but needing to improve — but also how important those services are to residents.

It’s about “really focusing on those areas where we can make significant improvements to residents’ overall satisfaction,” he said.

For the survey, 1,500 residents were selected at random, with two mailings going out in October and November. The city received 339 responses, down slightly from the 393 responses received in 2019.

Results from the survey showed residents want improved access to walking and bike trails, more trail integration and development, more restaurants (especially a bakery, a pizzeria and food trucks), additional access points along Interstate 5, and an indoor fitness/exercise center.

Residents also said they were concerned about preserving green spaces, managing growth and development, building permits, street maintenance, traffic congestion and code enforcement.

“We were surprised at how much better we need to be at communication, because we have spent a lot of time and resources better communicating with residents through our newsletter, our social media presence, our email lists, our direct outreach on projects,” Stuart said. “When we saw that, a significant dip in those scores, it caused us to really dig in and figure out what is it that we need to be doing better.”

Project pages online

One area needing better communication, Stuart said, is the status of projects. A recent example is the South Royle Road improvement project. Ongoing delays and mistakes by the city and contractors had many residents wondering what was happening with the project and when it would be completed.

“We are now developing project pages for the significant projects, everything from Costco to some big road projects to the YMCA. All of those will have project pages that are interactive, have FAQs, offer the opportunity for comments and are updated with the latest information,” Stuart explained. “That’s a direct result of the feedback we got from the community.”

Project pages, including one for Royle Road, can be found on the Ridgefield Roundtable site at https://ridgefieldroundtable.org/projects.

Additionally, a new interactive development activity map is coming soon. According to Stuart, the map will show every project in any stage of development in Ridgefield.

“It will show you all the documents associated with that project,” he said. “It’s everything from a pre-application conference to they’re in the midst of construction. It shows every phase.”

Now that the survey results are available, Stuart said, the city council will dig into the details to get to the lessons learned. That information will be used to set priorities for how the city spends its revenue going forward.

On the web

According to Stuart, how tax dollars are being spent is a big concern for residents. To help answer any questions, he said, budgets for each year, as well as an interactive budget tool, are now available at https://ridgefieldwa.us/government/city-departments/finance-department/city-budget.

An audio recording of the city council’s Jan. 26 meeting is available at https://ridgefieldwa.us/government/city-departments/city-council.

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