The Fort Smith Board of Directors held a public meeting today to discuss the results of a survey sent to a sampling of residents about their impressions of city services and areas of concern.
The survey was mailed to 1,100 households of varying neighborhoods, incomes and education levels. They received 324 completed surveys (29%). The results allow Fort Smith to compare with several hundred other cities across the country.
The three key topics discussed at the meeting were planning and zoning, police services, and communication and civic engagement.
Respondents said Fort Smith is a “good” or “fair” place to work but gave the city a “poor” grade for employment opportunities.
“There were a significant number of respondents who were concerned about the direction that Fort Smith is headed, and some of that may be a result of the economic downturn we’ve seen in the last four years since the Great Recession,” says City Administrator Ray Gosack.
He says Fort Smith typically feels the effects of economic changes after the rest of the country. The recent uptick in the unemployment rate could have some residents concerned.
Respondents also shared concerns about safety in the downtown area and the availability of affordable housing.
The majority of respondents ranked the city higher than average in their interactions with city employees.
“Our residents were also pleased with the quality of our drinking water,” said Gosack. “They also use our libraries and park systems extensively. So it was encouraging to see the citizens taking advantage of those public services available to them.”
The city planned for the cost of the survey – $8,400 – in the 2012 budget. The last survey of this kind was conducted five years ago. Gosack recommends the next survey takes place in two to three years.