Survey finds positive views of city services

Editor's note: This is the second of three stories on a recent survey of Ashland residents' opinions on their community and government services. The final story will run Saturday.

By Vickie Aldous

In a survey commissioned by the city of Ashland, 83 percent of respondents said services provided by the city government are good or excellent, but some said officials should do more to control the budget.

Several people expressed their gratitude in a section of the anonymous survey where people could write open-ended remarks.

"Keep up the good work!" said one.

Residents were less satisfied about city spending, however, with 60 percent saying the value of services for the taxes paid was good or excellent.

"Tighten the budget and find a way to do more with less," a resident wrote.

Some said the city spends too much on outside consultants to conduct expensive studies.

Others questioned how much the survey itself cost. The survey cost $15,650, according to city staff.

Some residents said city staff should have done the job in-house, rather than hiring Colorado-based National Research Center, Inc.

Hiring the center allowed city officials to get ratings about how Ashland stacks up against 500 other jurisdictions where the survey has been conducted.

Some residents were grateful for the chance to share their views.

"Thank you for trying to learn what citizens think," a respondent wrote.

Residents had generally positive views of city employees, and 64 percent had had contact with a city employee in the past year.

Regarding city employee knowledge, 88 percent of respondents said it was good or excellent. For responsiveness, 82 percent rated that as good or excellent, and 87 percent said employees' courtesy was good or excellent.

Residents gave high marks to Ashland's firefighter/paramedics, with 93 percent saying that both fire and ambulance services were good or excellent.

Feelings were more mixed about Ashland police, with 78 percent rating police services as good or excellent.

Almost half of the respondents had had contact with police during the past year, and 71 percent were left with a good or excellent impression.

Comments ran the gamut, with some people saying police are too heavy-handed and harass youth, while others said law enforcement is not strict enough.

Of 13 percent of people who said they or someone in their household had been a victim of a crime in the past year, 83 percent said they had reported the crime to police. That reporting rate was much higher in Ashland than in other cities, according to the National Research Center.

Also in the survey, the number of people rating street repair, street lighting and sidewalk maintenance as good or excellent hovered in the 60 percent range.

A smaller number, 54 percent, rated land use, planning and zoning as good or excellent.

Ashlanders were more pleased with utilities, such as electricity, sewer and water service, than average Americans and people living in university towns, but they also voiced concerns about costs.

"I was born and raised in Ashland. I feel the average citizen is open to rape and pillage by the city from utilities to taxes," one person wrote.

Another resident said utility bill hikes hit working people who contribute to the community.

Almost everyone — 98 percent — visited a park in the past year, and 94 percent rated parks as good or excellent.

Participation in recreation programs and activities was at 67 percent, with 90 percent saying those programs and activities are good or excellent.

A few people were disturbed by reports over the winter that two parks workers had allegedly stolen equipment and supplies, and a parks receptionist had allegedly embezzled funds.

"I hope that checks and balances are put in place to eliminate park department theft and embezzlement," a resident wrote.

Some people wanted dogs to be allowed on more parkland, but others wanted to keep the ban on dogs in most developed parks.

The parks department operates the Ashland Senior Center in Hunter Park, and 80 percent of respondents said services for seniors were good or excellent.

To see details of the complete survey, visit

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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