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Most Pensacolians are in agreement that life in the City of Five Flags has improved and a solid majority believe the city is moving in the right direction.

The University of West Florida Haas Center released its latest findings after surveying more than 400 city residents on a variety of topics. The Haas Center has examined residents’ outlook on the city annually since 2014.

The survey was conducted in October via telephone interviews with city residents who were at least 18 years old. It is conducted annually to assess resident satisfaction with the delivery of major city services and to help improve the quality of those services and determine budget priorities, according to city officials.

The survey results produced the following key findings:

  • 69.3% of respondents said the City is headed in the right direction.
  • The report identified three areas of concern, down from five in 2015.
  • There was a 14% increase in the percentage of respondents who said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the value of services provided by the City compared to the taxes they pay.
  • The percentage of respondents who were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the ease of obtaining information about City services rose by 21%.

“The faculty and staff at UWF are a tremendous resource for the city and we turn to them on a regular basis for research assistance and advice”, said Mayor Ashton Hayward. “The annual survey has developed into a great partnership between the City and the Haas Center.”

“Seeing that by a margin of 8 to 1, city residents are telling us that the city is on the right track, and that the City continues to get high marks for core services such as public safety, sanitation and city parks, I think these survey results validate that our priorities are aligned with the community’s expectations,” said Mayor Hayward.

Pensacola city hall in downtown Pensacola. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

“The survey data is useful to us as we begin our budget planning process. There were a lot of positives in the survey, but it also showed us opportunities for improvement, especially around issues of infrastructure.”

The three city services that were identified in the report as “areas of concern” were stormwater infrastructure, streets and sidewalks. The City says it is taking active steps to address each one of them. Beginning in early 2017 and continuing for the next three years, the City will spend $13.8 million to resurface 1825 blocks of city streets. When the project is complete the overwhelming majority of city streets will have been resurfaced or reconstructed since 2005.

In the last three years the City has spent over $21 million on stormwater projects and that investment is now at a point where progress is readily visible, according to city officials. Some rain events that used to overwhelm the City’s stormwater system are now contained by it, flooding is minimized, and untreated runoff is prevented from flowing into Pensacola Bay. In response to residents’ ongoing concerns about stormwater management, city staff continues to research and apply for grants to enhance the City’s resiliency and has placed a priority on obtaining RESTORE funding for projects to reduce flood risks in the Long Hollow basin.

A plan to restore the Carpenter’s Creek and Bayou Texar watershed includes stream/floodplain restoration and low impact development. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

To address concerns about sidewalks the City is preparing to assess the condition of the entire network of sidewalks in order to identify and prioritize maintenance needs for existing sidewalks and locations for new construction. Money from Local Option Sales Tax proceeds will be used to pay for the prioritized list of projects.

The International City/County Management Association recommends citizen surveying as a way to bridge the gap between the government and citizens who vote, pay taxes, and make decisions about where to live and build their businesses but may not be able to attend council meetings or participate in public workshops. Surveys done by outside professionals help establish a neutral benchmark that all parties can accept and they come with analysis and explanation that put the results in perspective.

Conducted over a five-week period that began October 1, 2016, the mixed methods survey randomly sampled city residents. In total, 444 people completed the survey. That response level coincides with an approximate 4.6% margin of error. In other words, a sample of City of Pensacola residents will differ no more than +/-4.6% from a survey that included all City of Pensacola residents.

This story will be updated.

See the full results of the survey here:

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