Representatives from Ipsos Canada present the results of the citizen satisfaction survey to council on Nov. 12. Photo by Emily Jaycox

Ponoka residents are happy to live here, but have ‘high expectations’

Survey interviewed 400 randomly selected residents

Ponoka town council got some insight into the minds of Ponoka residents as it heard a summary of the results from its citizen satisfaction survey during its regular meeting Nov. 12.

The report is complex and detailed, but generally, results indicate most residents seem fairly satisfied in most areas, scoring a 92 per cent for the overall quality of life in Ponoka.

The survey was conducted this September as part of the town’s annual consultation process. This year was different though, as it was a statistically valid survey as it randomly invited 400 citizens to participate by answering questions on their level of satisfaction on town programs and services via telephone.

The results will help inform strategic planning and budgeting decisions, says Sandra Smith, communications manager for the town.

Representatives from Ipsos Canada’s Calgary office, account manager Jessica Weber and vice president of public affairs Erin Roulston, were at the meeting to present the results.

Coun. Kevin Ferguson asked if only landline numbers were called, if that would skew results, as the demographic of landline users and cell phone users are different.

The response was that industry standards are that cell phone to landline interviews in any study be done at a 3:4 ratio.

The survey asked questions about the level of satisfaction in town services, taxation economic development, communications and customer service, performance of town government, and other topics.

Survey responders ranked parks, recreation and cultural programs as the most important priority to them, government services such as garbage and recycling as the second most important, third was potholes and road conditions and fourth was crime, followed by the economy.

Parks and recreation being at top is a bit unique, as across Canada, concerns tend to be transportation, social issues, and the economy in the top three.

Of the respondents, 92 per cent said their quality of life was good to very good, with 7 per cent in the poor or very poor range.

There is an appreciation of parks and recreations and some feel there is a good variety of recreational programs.

In the perceived change in quality of life, 23 per cent said it had improved in recent years, 56 per cent stayed the same and 19 per cent said it had worsened, which is lower than the national comparison.

Ponoka residents’ sense of community was the highest mentioned factor in contributing to quality of life.

Its central location, being closer to larger municipalities, and job prospects were factors in favour for Ponoka.

Of those surveyed, 81 per cent were overall satisfied with services.

The most important services tend to be emergency response, snow removal, road and sidewalk maintenance and economic development and growth.

According to survey results, Ponoka residents are 91 per cent satisfied with fire services and 91 per cent with utilities.

Ponoka’s primary strengths are policing, fire, utilities, garbage, parks and playground maintenance. The main areas identified for improvement were roads and sidewalk, snow removal and animal control.

Of those surveyed, more than six in 10 wanted more investment in economic development and recreation.

Only 9 per cent said they were very knowledgeable about how the town operates and what services it provides and 43 per cent said they are somewhat knowledgeable.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents felt they receive high value for their tax dollars, and 20 per cent said the value was very poor, which is slightly lower than national average.

Thirty-eight per cent said cut services to keep taxes low, and 24 per cent want to increase taxes to enhance or expand services.

The survey results suggested there is support for increased taxation in order to fund a new community wellness centre. 53 per cent were in support. 23 per cent strongly supported and 38 per cent strongly opposed.

In day-to-day shopping, 77 per cent stay in Ponoka and 23 per cent shop outside of Ponoka.

For big ticket items, 63 per cent go to Red Deer or another larger centre. In other small communities that are not in such close proximity to larger centres, those numbers are lower.

The overall level of satisfaction for communication from the town was 79 per cent satisfied. Of the respondents, 78 per cent said they receive news about the town from Ponoka News, followed by the town’s website and Facebook page.

Of the users of the town’s website, 90 per cent said they were satisfied with it.

Almost 2/3 said they received just the right amount of information about the town, 35 per cent said they receive too little.

Eighty-one per cent said they have had contact with the town in the last year — compared to 18 per cent in Alberta — and 84 per cent said were satisfied with the service they received.

“It’s off the charts,” said Roulston, adding town staff time and resources are being accessed a great deal, which is vastly in other communities.

About the town’s leadership, 11 per cent said they were very satisfied, 60 per cent were somewhat satisfied, 20 were dissatisfied. Those numbers are slightly lower than elsewhere in Alberta.

“This is actually a decent bench mark for you.”

Of those surveyed, 83 per cent felt Ponoka is inclusive as is a “friendly, peaceful and small community.”

Mayor Rick Bonnett says he was glad to see people aren’t totally opposed to the raising of taxes and wondered if the town’s number for resident engagement was high because people talk to staff a lot, or if they are just complaints to mayor.

Roulston responded that it wasn’t an open-ended question, so no clear answer is available, although there may be a social factor involved.

“That might merit a bit of attention as it is so vastly off the norms,” she said.

Ferguson joked that his walk to the civic centre would take 15 minutes if he was uninterrupted, but can take up to an hour because of the people who stop to talk to him.

“People are very happy living here and I do believe they have high expectations,” said Weber.

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