Retail shopping, police services brought up as issues
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Aside from concerns about retail shopping and police presence in individual neighborhoods, Delano received very high marks as a whole in a recent survey initiated by the city.
The city authorized Decision Resources to conduct a residential survey of 400 Delano residents to study quality of life issues.
This survey is different than the one also conducted during the same time period by the city in partnership with the Dream Team II and the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce to determine future demand for retail, food service, and service uses in Delano to identify market potential for retail stores and services in downtown Delano and along Highway 12.
Bill Morris of Decision Resources was at the Delano City Council meeting March 16 and shared with the council and city staff how the city is doing in a number of different areas.
The first question participants were asked was, in general, what is the quality of life in Delano. An “excellent” rating was given by 25 percent of participants, a “good” rating was given by 66 percent of participants, an “only fair” rating by 8 percent, and a “poor” rating by 1 percent.
“What do you like most about the city?” was asked next, with a strong majority, 43 percent, stating “small town.”
“It’s very rare in a community to see agreement in that area,” Morris told the council. “That clearly is the unique characteristic and value people have in the community.”
Other responses included schools, at 15 percent; friendly people, at 11 percent; location, at 8 percent; and several other sentiments including quiet/peaceful, neighborhoods, safe, and rural/open space.
Survey participants were then asked what they feel is the most serious issue facing Delano. Of the 400 participants, 18 percent said lack of retail, while 15 percent said nothing.
Morris said it is again rare for a city to not have one major issue facing it, or something that at least 20 to 30 percent of the people feel strongly about.
Delano’s downtown was an issue for 12 percent of the people, lack of jobs was an issue for 11 percent, high taxes was at 9 percent, as was growth; and rising crime was at 4 percent.
“The lack of retail seems to be the key issue in people’s minds,” Morris said, adding that the percentage of people who note high taxes as a major issue is usually higher in most communities his company surveys.
Regarding what residents feel the community means to them, 85 percent said it’s “home,” while 9 percent said it’s a “place to live.” The remaining 6 percent said both/neither.
Of what people feel a connection to, 41 percent said their own neighborhoods, 35 percent said the city as a whole, and 21 percent said the school district. The remaining four percent indicated they were unsure. Morris said responses to this question typically depend on what stage of life a person is at.
When asked if they feel the city is going in the right direction, 77 percent indicated they feel it is, while 16 percent indicated they felt it’s on the “wrong track.” Seven percent felt unsure about this question.
Of the 16 percent who indicated Delano is on the “wrong track,” Morris said it’s the same group who are concerned about retail shopping and the downtown area.
A majority of residents polled feel Delano has enough parks/open space, trails/bikeways, entertainment establishments, and restaurants. Eighty-three percent, however, felt there are not enough retail shopping opportunities in Delano.
When asked what the preferred retail shopping venue would be, 37 percent responded with Target, 24 percent said Walmart, 17 percent said “none,” and other choices included a clothing store and small retail.
For the development of a “big box” store in Delano, 77 percent of residents indicated they would strongly support or support it. Fourteen percent opposed it, while 7 percent strongly oppose the development of a big box store in Delano. Two percent were unsure.
“It is the general consensus in the community it’d be great to develop a big box store,” Morris said.
In looking at the city’s property tax comparison, 54 percent of Delano residents surveyed felt that taxes were “about average,” while 25 percent said taxes were “somewhat high.”
Morris said 13 percent said they were unsure, which he said meant some people had no idea what percent of property taxes went where. Six percent said they felt taxes were “very high,” while 2 percent said taxes were “somewhat low.”
“You don’t have a property tax reaction going on as you do in other communities,” Morris commented.
The survey also showed that 65 percent of residents surveyed would support or strongly support public funding for the downtown area. Opposing this were 22 percent, and strongly opposing this were 5 percent. Ten percent indicated they were unsure about public funding for the downtown area.
For public funding of other projects, 50 percent indicated they would support or strongly support public funding of other projects.
“When it moves away from downtown, support goes down,” Morris noted.
The survey showed 66 percent of residents surveyed feel the value of city services is “good,” 18 percent said it is “only fair,” and 12 percent indicated they were “unsure.”
“People do feel like they are getting value for the taxes they are paying,” Morris said.
Other issues surveyed included fire protection, which 91 percent said is excellent/good service. Morris said this is one of the highest ratings he’s seen anywhere.
A high number of people polled, 95 percent, felt there are no unsafe areas in Delano, while 5 percent identified city parks and along the railroad tracks as being unsafe.
In regard to neighborhood police patrolling, 21 percent of residents felt there isn’t enough police presence in neighborhoods, while 76 percent feel the level of police patrolling is adequate. three percent said there is too much police patrolling.
Use of city and area parks is also high among residents polled, with 75 percent indicating they use the larger city parks, 70 percent use Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, and 64 percent indicating they use city trails.
Participants were asked whether they work outside of Delano, with 40 percent reporting they do not work outside of the city, 34 percent reporting they do, and 27 percent reporting they are unemployed or retired.
Of those surveyed, 52 percent said they felt they had a strong knowledge of the work of the mayor and city council, 25 percent said they had very little knowledge of their work, 17 percent said they had none at all, and 6 percent said they had a great deal of knowledge of the work the mayor and city council does.
For the job performance rating of the mayor and city council, 63 percent said they approve, 17 percent indicated they were unsure, 12 percent disapprove, 5 percent strongly disapprove, and 3 percent strongly approve.
Quality of service by city staff received high ratings from those polled, as well, with 69 percent of people indicating a good or excellent rating of city staff. Morris said this is in the top three of the metro area cities his company has surveyed.
Of the 400 surveyed, 62 percent said they had not contacted the city hall during the past year, and 38 percent said they had. Waiting time, courtesy of staff, and ease of obtaining services all received around a 90 percent approval rating from residents polled.
As to where local residents obtain information, the local newspaper received an overwhelming majority, with 66 percent indicating they prefer to receive information from the newspaper.
Other responses included a mailed newsletter at 14 percent, cable television at 11 percent, word of mouth at 7 percent, and the city web site at 6 percent.
Decision Resources also asked a question about the city’s web site, with 53 percent indicating they have accessed the city’s web site, and 47 percent indicating they have not. It was noted those who have accessed the site found it easy to navigate and find what they were looking for.
“People are pleased with the way things are going in the city,” Morris concluded. Retail shopping, and even the use of public funds to obtain more retail shopping options, seemed to be the highest issue brought up by residents polled.
“In general, the city is just doing an extraordinary job,” Morris said.