A divided council agreed to hire ETC Institute to conduct a citizen satisfaction survey for $9,900 Monday night.
Gardner council member Kristina Harrison opposed the measure.
“I’m kind of speaking facetiously,” she said. “But for $9,900 I could bring in 495 residents and buy them dinner for $20 apiece and get feedback that could be actionable.”
City officials have hired ETC every other year since 1999 to conduct an annual survey of citizens’ satisfaction with various city services.
Karen Fulk, of the ETC Institute, told council members that the survey is a snapshot in time and the institute uses past surveys to analyze trends.
“Some of those things need to be trended every other year,” Fulk said. “The silent majority is not always likely to show up in this room.”
But Harrison said she thinks the survey’s results can be interpreted differently.
For example, the survey asks how satisfied citizens are with the number of parks. Survey takers are asked to circle numbers 1-5 with 5 being very satisfied, and 1 being very dissatisfied.
However, there isn’t a way to interpret whether someone who is dissatisfied believes the city needs more or fewer parks.
Council member Steve Hale said the fact that each question could be interpreted differently speaks to the survey’s validity. The survey typically receives more than 800 responses from a randomly selected group of citizens.
“This was one of the few examples of when we can get unbiased feedback,” Hale said.
“We talk about honest feedback. You’re basing honest feedback on someone making a circle on a form,” Harrison replied.
Council member Brian Broxterman said he supported the survey, but voted against it.
“I think there is more room for discussion and some more thorough questions,” he said.
Following the vote, Mayor Dave Drovetta explained to Broxterman and Harrison that the council has had two years to modify the survey and look at the questions.
In other business, council members:
• Approved a waiver to allow Jerry’s Bait Shop to sell alcoholic beverages within 200 feet of a school, church and library during the Festival on the Trails event in June.
Tom Mertz, festival organizer, said no local restaurants or bars bid to host a beer garden for the 2011 event. In previous years, organizers and beer garden hosts shared alcohol sale profits.
“When we lost city funding and a major sponsor, we started planning with $14,000 less,” Mertz told council members.
That lead Festival on the Trails organizers to use the beer garden as a rented vendor space to help offset some lost funding.
• Approved a waiver to allow Wally’s Bar and Grill to sell alcoholic beverages within 200 feet of a school during the Kansas City Hot Air Balloon Invitational at Celebration Park in May.
• Approved a $171,195 contract with Advanced Protective Coatings for painting the exterior of the 183rd Street water tower, painting the interior of the downtown standpipe and several safety upgrades and repairs at both locations. City officials initially budgeted $337,000 for the project.
• Adopted a resolution to transfer $60,000 from the Capital Improvement Reserve Fund to the General Fund. City Finance Director Laura Gourley said city council members approved the measure as part of the budget process, but state statute requires they also pass a resolution.