KINGSPORT - Residents in the Model City feel less safe than they did a year ago, with many being concerned about illegal drugs and traffic safety, according to a survey released Monday.
The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen received a summary of the 2006 "Quality of Life" survey during a work session Monday afternoon.
The survey, conducted in August and September 2006, asked residents to rate Kingsport's direct contact service, utilities (water, sewer, garbage pickup), facilities maintenance, leisure opportunities, critical issues, and quality of life. Items were ranked on a five-point scale: poor, unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good and excellent.
This year marks the third consecutive year Absolute Communications Inc. conducted the survey for the city. Kingsport paid ACI $5,500 to conduct the survey.
According to the survey, 77 percent of respondents felt safe or very safe in Kingsport, compared to 81 percent in 2005 and 92 percent in 2004. As for the concerns of the respondents:
• 66.4 percent expressed concerns related to illegal drugs, compared to 24 percent last year.
• 92 percent were concerned about traffic safety and crashes, compared to 24 percent last year.
• 19.9 percent indicated concerns about gang activity, compared to 12 percent last year.
• 30.1 percent were concerned with robbery, compared to 10 percent last year.
Interim Police Chief Gale Osborne said the department has placed a great deal of emphasis on drug activity and traffic safety over the past year, from creating a traffic committee to monthly seat belt checkpoints to placing cameras in the Riverview community. Next month, cameras will be installed at six red light intersections in Kingsport to help curb motorists from running red lights.
Respondents also indicated the quality of service in the Model City had dropped over the past year, especially in regard to trash and recycling services.
According to the survey, 85 percent of respondents felt the water service in Kingsport was fair to very good, compared to 95 percent in 2005. For sewer service, 81 percent felt it was fair to very good (compared to 94 percent last year) and for trash and recycling service, 73 percent felt it was fair to very good (compared to 95 percent last year).
Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said the drop in water and sewer satisfaction was probably due to a coinciding rate increase, while the trash service rating drop was probably the cumulative effect of changes in the city's collection system.
Prior to the survey, Kingsport went from weekly trash collection to biweekly.
Respondents also rated the intellectual and recreational opportunities in the Model City. Eighty-two percent of respondents say intellectual opportunities are fair to very good, compared to 94 percent last year. For recreational opportunities, 76 say it's fair to very good in Kingsport, compared to 84 percent last year.
"This year the group that responded to the survey was a higher-income, better-educated group than prior years statistically," Fleming said. "That particular group didn't feel as intellectually challenged as previous groups."
According to the survey, 56 percent of respondents had a bachelor's or post-graduate degree, while 41.8 percent had income higher than $75,000 a year.
Forty-seven percent of respondents dealt directly with city staff.
• 86 percent say the staffer was effective, compared to 84 percent last year.
• 80 percent say the answer was in a timely manner, compared to 78 percent last year.
• 91 percent say the staffer was courteous and helpful, the same as last year.
• 85 percent say the overall level of service was satisfactory or excellent, compared to 90 percent last year.
In regard to the care of maintenance of buildings:
• 91 percent of respondents felt Kingsport did a fair to very good job in maintaining city-owned buildings, compared to 94 percent last year.
• 93 percent felt the city did a fair to very good job in taking care of its parks and playing fields, compared to 96 percent last year.
And as for the quality of life, 96 percent of respondents say it's fair to very good living in Kingsport, down one point from last year.
The top critical issue in the Model City, according to respondents, is street and road maintenance. Tied for second was job, shopping and restaurants and K-12 education.
"I thought (the survey) was very strong," Fleming said. "I think that it's one of the best tools that we have to collect information citywide and even outside the city limits in an unbiased manner, and it provides great data for our decision makers, to check the pulse of the community."
ACI contacted over 3,000 residents by telephone, e-mail and face to face. Residents could also take the survey online.
According to the survey there were 1,364 respondents - the largest response ever and 35 percent more than required for an accurate sample. Six hundred surveys were received over the Internet. Most of the surveys collected came during early voting at the Civic Auditorium.