Telephone survey dials in an approval rating of 74% for Sykesville government But poll reaches less than 20% of households

March 17, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A telephone survey in Sykesville reached less than 20 percent of the town's households, but officials are calling it a boon to charting the municipal future.

Results show that 74 percent of the respondents were pleased with local government. That was a comforting pat on the back for the mayor and six-member council. The margin for error was about 6 percent.

"Our approval rating was unusually high for a government," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "The research shows governments usually get around 30 percent approval."

Public Opinion Research Inc. of Eldersburg conducted the poll, randomly calling 200 of the town's 1,100 households this month.

"One out of six residences would be typical for a survey of this type," said Jeff George, a data analyst for the research company.

The council commissioned the $1,300 survey in anticipation of its March 8 retreat, an annual session that helps officials set a course for the future and priorities for its capital improvement projects.

"The idea was to get a read from residents as to what the town needs to focus on," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager. (( "We got good and critical comments that helped at the retreat."

Surveyors asked residents to rate the town staff and its services, area roads, the Sykesville Police Department and recreational opportunities. Calls occurred during evening hours, allowing about 10 minutes for each respondent to answer about 50 questions.

The survey company divided the town of 3,500 into four geographical areas, trying to mix residents of the older homes with the newer subdivisions.

Residents reported high satisfaction with services. The police force won a 76 percent approval rating. About 11 percent said officers could be stricter enforcing traffic regulations, particularly those dealing with speeding.

Nearly half the respondents said they felt safe walking in the town parks and neighborhoods at night. Two-thirds called the police force fair in its handling of complaints.

Sykesville is the only one of the county's eight municipalities to provide trash hauling and curbside recycling -- services that 74 percent said were excellent.

Respondents also gave brief personal data, including age and income. About 35 percent of those polled ranged in age from 35 to 49, and 43 percent listed annual incomes greater than $50,000.

The survey also offered a forum for anyone who had a complaint. Most were minor problems with stray animals and weeds on Main Street. A few people mentioned pot holes, skateboarders and missing recycling bins as concerns.

Several questions involved the Warfield Complex, a state-owned property the town recently annexed and plans to develop. Nearly 30 percent of the respondents wanted recreational uses on the 131-acre property. Less than 11 percent favored converting the aging buildings at Warfield into senior housing.

"I was surprised people came out so strongly for recreation on that project," said Herman. "But if that is what they want, we will try to cater to them."

The hottest topic in the survey may have been a town swimming pool, a project the council has discussed for nearly two years.

About 60 percent of the respondents favor the project, but the percentage rose to more than 80 for families with school-age children. Officials have not decided whether the town will build a pool. Several sites are under consideration, and the town engineer has taken test boorings of property on Sandosky Road.

Pub Date: 3/17/98

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