County used prizes to coax people to fill out survey

Questionnaire to gauge views on quality of life near Westminster

July 21, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

One Westminster neighbor has a yearlong ticket to family fun and fitness; another has a dinner for two at a popular Main Street restaurant.

The winners became eligible for the two prizes by filling out a household survey from the Carroll County Department of Planning.

As they revise the comprehensive plan for the Westminster environs -- property that surrounds the county seat but does not include the city -- Carroll planners mailed surveys to 5,800 homes.

A response from 10 percent would have been considered fairly typical, but nearly 20 percent answered the survey. It may have been the promise of prizes, said Brenda Dinne, county planner.

"We let them know that prizes were available for those who filled them out," Dinne said yesterday. "Ideally, we would have liked 5,800 responses, but it does not work that way. We got about 1,100 back."

Offering prizes produced a similar increase in returns from Hampstead, whose plan is also undergoing revision, Dinne said. The town offered a free summer membership to the Hampstead pool.

The planning department relies on the surveys as it charts development and infrastructure needs, such as schools and roads. Residents are asked to answer four pages of questions on quality of life in the community.

"Basically, we are trying to get at what people want for the future and what we need to do to meet those needs," Dinne said.

The prizes were donated by local businesses.

"Our whole motive was to give people an incentive to return the surveys," Dinne said. "The businesses helped us out with free prizes. Every time we update community concept plans, we will do the prize thing, assuming we can get donations."

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission, which without discussion unanimously pronounced the promotion "a nice idea," chose the winners yesterday.

Michael Gross of Hughes Shop Road won a one-year membership to the Westminster Family Center in Longwell Armory valued at $750.

"Knowing him, the prize was probably an incentive," said Bonnie Gross of her husband.

John G. Hurt Jr. of Gahle Court will have dinner with a companion at Johanssons Dining House. Winners also received a certificate of thanks from the commission.

The seven-member panel can expect a summary of the survey results and comments from community workshops soon, Dinne said. The county plans one more workshop on the Westminster environs plan at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 in the second-floor cafeteria at Westminster High School.

Information: 410-386-2145.

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