Scarborough looks much different now than it did 20 years ago — the landscape, demographics, and individual opinions on Town issues. It has also been over 20 years since our last town-wide community survey in 1999. There is a lot we can learn from gathering public input. It is time for a new survey.

In mid-July, the Town Council approved the Communications Committee’s recommendation of ETC Institute to design, distribute, and analyze results of a community-wide survey this fall. ETC Institute is a national leader in community-based surveys, having administered surveys in more than 700 cities and counties throughout the United States in the last five years alone. Communities where they have conducted research vary in population from 1,500 to over 100,000.

The survey will cover citizen satisfaction on a variety of Town services, including the condition of streets and sidewalks, library services, police response time, and more. We also seek to learn more about overall satisfaction with the quality of life in Scarborough, cost of living, etc. These are questions that were asked in a limited service-satisfaction survey in 2010, so results can be benchmarked against past data. Other topics covered will be relevant to current Town issues, like a library expansion, consolidation of primary schools, or adding a community center. There will be opportunity for open ended questions to ensure your opinions and comments are heard.

The survey results will give decision-makers a more informed perspective on resident opinions on a variety of topics. Instead of hearing the opinions of only the few residents who go to every Council meeting and influence local decision-making because of active participation, the survey will provide a sampling from a much broader group. This allows all to participate and ensures the needs of the entire community are heard and represented.

The goal of the survey is to capture the opinions and comments of as many Scarborough residents as possible. The process requires a minimum sampling of 600 completed surveys from 4,200 mailings for results to be statistically valid. Surveys are expected to be mailed in early fall to a random sampling of homes. Digital access to the survey will be made available to anyone who does not receive the mailed survey and wishes to complete one. The survey should take no more than 15-20 minutes to complete and provides valuable information for future decision-making.

Two of the most important criteria for decision-making are (1) to target resources toward services of the highest importance to residents; and (2) to target resources toward those services where residents are least satisfied. Policy decisions today should be influenced by importance and satisfaction trends of today.

Data collected through October will be compiled in a report and dashboard format and available to all who want to review the results in the months to follow. Please be on the alert for this survey in the next couple of months and make an effort to participate and have your voice be heard.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.

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