Ninety-four percent of Woodbury residents say the quality of life in our community is "excellent" or "good," and 88% rate municipal services provided to them as an excellent or good. Those are two of the conclusions coming out of the 2022 community survey.
The survey results were presented to the City Council on April 27 by Jade Arocha from Polco/National Research Center Inc. (NRC), the polling firm that conducted the survey in January and early February.
The survey also revealed that water quality is regarded as one of the most serious issues facing Woodbury. One likely reason is that we have been talking more about water quality the last few years after the State of Minnesota settled its water-related lawsuit with 3M Company in February 2018. The state alleged that the company's production of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) damaged the drinking water in the east metro area. The city has been using this settlement money to treat the water system so that the water delivered to homes continues to meet all state guidelines and standards for PFAS. To do this, we've removed some wells from service and constructed a temporary water treatment plant in 2020. The city is expanding the facility this summer so that we can continue to meet water demand until the long-term water treatment facility is operational.
Among the other concerns cited in this year's survey were crime, affordable housing and traffic congestion.
City services viewed favorably
Evaluations of city services remained strong, with 92% rating police services as excellent or good, and 98% positively rating fire and emergency medical services.
Our ratings also compared favorably to our benchmarks. The city's survey results were compared to three different sets of benchmark communities: Polco/NRC's national database of more than 500 communities; cities in Minnesota; and communities with populations between 55,000 and 75,000.
Of the 55 results comparable to the national database, 19 received higher or much higher ratings, 32 received similar ratings and two received lower ratings - related to drinking water and the number of people who had contact with a city employee in the last 12 months. For the 55 Minnesota benchmark comparisons, four of our results received higher or much higher ratings, 46 received similar ratings and just one rating - related to drinking water - received a lower rating. Similarly, when compared to our population benchmark, three of our results received higher ratings, 45 received similar ratings, and just one rating - also related to drinking water - received a lower rating.
Room for improvement
While the overall results were very positive, there is always room for improvement. To be clear: our water continues to meet all state guidelines and standards for PFAS. And the city continues to address PFAS by:
- expanding the temporary water treatment plant;
- constructing a long-term water treatment plant (expected to be completed in at least five years);
- and building two new water production wells (one expected to be completed later this year and the other in 2023).
After water, the second most concerning rating was regarding crime. The overall feeling of safety in Woodbury declined from 96% rating safety as excellent or good in 2019 to 78% in 2022. In addition, 46% of respondents indicated they would like crime prevention and education to be a top policing priority, up from 24% in 2019. Despite these ratings, 94% of respondents indicated they felt very or somewhat safe walking alone in their neighborhood during the day.
In addition to serving as a "report card" on city services, the survey results provide useful input for the Council's strategic planning, which began earlier this summer. Pending formal approval later this year, the Council's strategic priorities for 2023-2024 will focus on water, environmental stewardship and public safety.
The staff and City Council will continue to analyze the survey data to determine where improvements can be made. There were 966 survey respondents, including 794 surveys completed online, yielding a response rate of 25%. The margin of error is plus or minus 3% around any given percentage for all respondents.
We are grateful to the respondents who took the time to answer more than 130 questions on the survey. Their feedback about how we are doing as a city is valuable to the City Council.
For more information about the survey results, contact the Administration Department at 651-714-3523.