Survey results help Whitehall leaders gauge community attitudes

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group

In a recent survey, residents gave Whitehall high marks for its police services and parks- and-recreation opportunities and said they believe it is a welcoming community.

But just more than half (51%) said they believe officials are good at handling city finances.

Those positions were recorded in the 2020 Whitehall Community Attitudes Survey, in which respondents were either residents or parents of children enrolled in Whitehall City Schools.

The city of Whitehall's 2020 Community Attitudes Survey showed that residents give high marks to city services but would like to see more affordable housing.

Administered by Saperstein Associates of Columbus, the survey questioned 355 people from a broad swath of races, ages and geographic regions of the city.

"The city goes to great lengths to ensure that each Community Attitudes Survey is a representative and statistically significant snapshot of the Whitehall community," said Megan Meyer, community-affairs manager for the city. "We work with Saperstein Associates, a professional polling firm, to design, field and analyze the survey on our behalf to eliminate response bias and to ensure that the demographics of the survey sample match the diverse demographic makeup of our community members."

The survey was conducted by phone from Sept. 9 to Oct. 7, with results presented Dec. 1 to Whitehall City Council.

Previous story:Hello? Whitehall dials up Sept. 9 for biennial phone survey

It is the third such survey, with the previous two being conducted in 2016 and 2018.

In the survey, one in three respondents (29%) said Whitehall is an excellent or above average place to live, and 68% said it is average or below average.

Satisfaction was highest among those 55 and older (34%) and those who own homes (35%).

A total of 81% of respondents said they believed Whitehall is headed in the right direction, compared to 80% in 2018 and 71% in 2016.

“Despite all the challenges that 2020 brought, the Community Attitudes Survey indicated that over 80% of residents believe the city is on the right track," said Mayor Kim Maggard. "This metric continues to improve and is an indicator that we take seriously as we consider how to make Whitehall a better place to live, work and play for decades to come."

When asked what officials should consider their highest priorities, 31% of survey respondents said reduce crime and drugs, 27% said infrastructure and 20% said add affordable housing and fix run-down properties.

"While not necessarily a surprise, it was interesting to see that over a third of the respondents ranked affordable-housing development among their highest priorities for economic development in the city," council President Tom Potter said. "It's important for our administrators and elected officials to keep this in mind as future affordable housing projects in our community are considered."

A majority of respondents (84%) said they feel very or somewhat safe in the neighborhood, reflecting attitudes in 2018. That number is up from 2016, when 79% of residents were asked the same question.

City services are very highly rated: 87% feel satisfied to very satisfied with police, 86% with garbage collection and 84% with fire and emergency-medical services.

One area that improved dramatically from past surveys was parks and recreation, which residents gave high marks: 70% of respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with programs, up 10% from when the question was asked in 2016.

But there is room for improvement in some areas, Maggard said.

“The survey results indicated that of those who were dissatisfied with a recent customer-service interaction, 18% felt they received unfriendly service and another 12% felt they were shuffled around,” Maggard said. “This represents an opportunity for the city to improve our customer-service responses, which we plan to do through continued customer-service and process-improvement training.”

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary