Small town atmosphere, friendly people and the historic downtown are among the top reasons the majority of residents believe Lacombe has a good or very good quality of life, according to the 2019 Citizen Satisfaction Survey.
Undertaken by Yardstick Research, the survey was aimed at gauging residents thoughts about life in Lacombe, and a total of 461 residents of all ages and background took part over the phone and via social media from May 6-20.
Results were presented to council via report at their regular meeting Monday, with 79 per cent saying they felt Lacombe had a good or very good quality of life, and 76 per cent saying they were likely to recommend Lacombe as a place to live.
Such results easily align with the City of Lacombe’s ranking as the fifth best place to live in the country. However, Mayor Grant Creasey was still wary about putting too much stock into the survey results.
“Overall, I was pleased with the way results came in favour and support of city personnel and city services,” he said. “Unfortunately, these reports are very subjective and open to interpretation, so coming up with genuine hard, fast results is difficult.”
Among the city’s strengths, according to the survey, was the Lacombe Fire Department, which received a 90 per cent satisfaction rating. Not too far behind was the Lacombe Memorial Centre at 83 per cent, trails at 78 per cent and the Lacombe and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) with 76 per cent.
Garbage services and recycling have also been a city strength – at least prior to the recent decision by council to trash residential recycling pickup. A total of 81 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with such services.
Rather than expect that number to dip, Creasey believes it will improve with coming solid waste and alternative recycling solutions.
“There’s some concern over our blue box discontinuation. It is my hope people will come to realize we made a very prudent and appropriate decision in that regard,” he said. “Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we will have a improved systems that better meet the needs of genuine recycling.”
One of the weaker areas, however, was the ability to keep residents from leaving town and spending their dollars outside the community. A total of 55 per cent of respondents said clothing was the top reason they leave Lacombe to shop, followed by food and groceries, building supplies, and shoes.
Economic development and the attraction and support of local business was one of the major issues during the last municipal election, and Creasey says it’s something the city is still working on.
“I want everyone to know it’s still an issue and we’ve been pursuing several different options and had some positive movement. It’s never fast enough to satisfy me, and I’m sure that holds true for the majority of our citizens,” he said.
“I will say, in defence of council,… we have put forth every effort and will continue to do to make sure we receive the kind of shopping opportunities everyone wants.”
In a release issued Wednesday, the city says some of council’s strategic goals for businesses “include downtown beautification and investment, co-developing partnerships to build business-supporting infrastructure, and developing forward-looking taxation principles.”
Taxes were also a weaker point, with just 44 per cent of respondents saying they felt they received good value for their tax dollars. The number falls shy of council’s strategic plan which aims for 60 per cent of citizens to feel they receive good value or better. Yardstick Research, however, noted it was trend throughout the province during the provincial election period when the survey took place.
“I think a person would always like those numbers to be higher, but council made a commitment to hold tax increases to a maximum of the consumer price index and that’s exactly what we intend to do,” Creasey said.
The city says there will also be efforts to improve the customer service levels through a joint customer service review with the Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce. The survey showed 42 per cent of Lacombe residents have been in contact with City Hall employees in the past year, with 67 per cent satisfied or very satisfied with the service.
“City administration will review the survey results and consultant analysis in depth when researching service level questions for the upcoming year,” said Director of Community Services Deborah Juch.
“The survey results will also be shared with the public in multiple ways, and we will look for opportunities to form online citizen panels, made up of interested survey respondents, for future input.”
A full report on the Citizen Satisfaction Survey can be found as part of the June 24 agenda package on the city’s website here: http://lacombe.ca/home/showdocument?id=12185.