Survey is the fourth biennial survey conducted by the city and is used to objectively assess what residents think
WASHOUGAL — City of Washougal officials recently released the results of the 2020 Community Survey. The biennial survey is the fourth conducted by the city, which provided the findings to members of its city council during a virtual work session on May 15.
The survey, conducted by the ETC Institute, indicated the city has satisfaction ratings that have increased or stayed the same in 49 of 54 areas since 2018 and increased or stayed the same in 44 of 54 areas since 2014.
Sixty-five percent of residents are satisfied with the overall quality of city services, which is an increase of 5 percent since the 2018 Community Survey. Only 8 percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of city services.
“Most residents in Washougal think you’re doing a great job,” said Chris Tatham, of the ETC Institute, who presented the survey findings to the council members during the May 15 work session. “Compared to other communities, you’re setting the standard particularly in customer service and the overall quality of city services. The improvements you’ve made just over the last couple of years are something you should be really proud of. It’s very unusual that I give a report like this and a community improves in 49 of 53 areas.”
With the results of the survey, city officials believe they are able to determine priorities for the community, guide budget and investment decisions, measure trends and compare performance with other communities nationwide. The city again contracted with ETC Institute to administer the six-page survey mailed to a random sample of Washougal residents. A total of 517 surveys were returned over the course of approximately one month beginning March 5, exceeding the target response goal of 400. The results have a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of +/-4.3 percent overall.
“Long-term trends show increases in almost all areas assessed, which proves we’ve made remarkable progress with many city services,” Washougal Mayor Molly Coston said in a news release from the city. “We’re being responsive to our community.”
Areas surveyed include Parks and Recreation, Public Safety, Communication, Streets, Code Enforcement and Customer Service. Eighty-seven percent of residents surveyed were satisfied with the quality of fire, emergency medical and ambulance services; 78 percent were satisfied with the quality of police services, 70 percent were satisfied with the quality of customer service from city employees, and 64 percent were satisfied with the quality of city parks. Residents were least satisfied with maintenance of city streets at 41 percent.
Notable increases in satisfaction of major categories of service over the 2018 survey include effectiveness of communication with the public (+11 percent), enforcement of city codes and ordinances (+6 percent), effectiveness of economic development efforts (+11 percent) and maintenance of city streets (+8 percent). Additionally, nearly every category surveyed on items that influence the perception residents have of the city saw a significant increase, such as overall feeling of safety in the city (+10 percent) and overall quality of life in the city (+8 percent).
“Most of your residents have a great perception of the city,” Tatham said. “When it comes to overall quality of customer service, [Washougal] is really setting the standard there at 25 percent above the northwest regional average and 28 percent above the U.S. average.”
Areas of improvement for the city include the maintenance of city streets, effectiveness of economic development efforts and the quality of city parks. Among amenities that are most important to develop in Washougal, retail and restaurants top the list.
“Once again, the staff and the customer service that is provided and the quality of that service is outstanding,” said City Manager David Scott. “We try our best to treat residents politely, try to be responsive and do the best we can to serve the community.”
The city did see decreases in the survey responses to two items related to the following question: How often did the employees contacted display the following behaviors?
• Did what they said they would do in a timely manner? 68 percent of respondents were satisfied with the city’s performance, down 9 percent from 2018.
• They helped resolve the issue to your satisfaction? 63 percent of respondents were satisfied with the city’s performance, also down 9 percent from 2018.
Respondents of the Washougal survey also indicated much lower positive perceptions of their city than those in the region and country to two questions.
• Overall image of the city? 49 percent expressed a positive perception of Washougal while those in the Northwest region (62 percent) and U.S. (61 percent) were much higher.
• How well the city is managing growth and development? 35 percent of those surveyed in Washougal had a positive response compared to 45 percent in both the Northwest region and U.S.
The 2020 Community Survey Final Report and related documents are available to the public at http://www.cityofwashougal.us/communitysurvey.
About ETC Institute
ETC Institute was founded in 1982 by Dr. Elaine Tatham to help local governments gather data from residents to enhance community planning. The firm has grown from a small one-person company to a national corporation. Since its founding, ETC Institute has completed research projects for clients in 49 states. This includes thousands of surveys, focus groups, and stakeholder meetings.
Information in this report provided by city of Washougal.