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Hernando County survey results are in

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Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 11:28 PM
BROOKSVILLE -

Hernando County asked residents to rank what they believe are the most vital services and how well the county is meeting those needs.

And the survey said…

No, this is not Family Feud. Rather, this was an online poll that’s been going on almost three months. County Administrator Len Sossamon wanted to know what was on citizens’ minds and the survey was an offshoot of his town hall meetings.

Among the 800-plus responses, public safety ranked the highest and community development the lowest.

The survey asked citizens to place a number from 1-5 (with five being the highest) on what they thought were the most important issues. Then they were asked to use those same numbers to indicate whether they thought the county was meeting the expectations in those areas.

The largest discrepancy between importance and meeting expectations were in attracting-retaining business and road-bridge maintenance.

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the public needs to be better informed of the business recruitment efforts in the county and cited two trips by Gov. Rick Scott to announce business expansions.

“We’ve pulled out all the stops in terms of business recruitment and retention,” Russell said.

Of lower importance but higher in meeting expectations was the county airport and bicycle trails.

Fifty-six percent of respondents believe the quality of life is worse than five years ago.

Russell said he wouldn’t read too much into the quality of life percentage.

“We’re just coming out of one of the worse recessions since the 1920s and I don’t necessarily believe that reflects Hernando County,” Russell said. “I don’t think our level of services here has diminished one bit. That’s probably more of a function of the downturn of the economy than it is quality of life in Hernando County.”

It turns out the top three concerns were EMS-ambulance, fire services and law enforcement. All three were given a 4.5.

When asked if the county is meeting the expectations, citizens gave a 4 to EMS-ambulance and fire services and a 3.9 for law enforcement.

The maintenance of local roads and bridges was a top vote-getter at 4.3. But only 3.1 said the county was fulfilling expectations.

The attracting and retention of business ranked high in importance at 4.2 but only 2.6 said expectations were being met, the widest margin on the survey.

The issue of building permits, long criticized by the public as being too slow and cumbersome, was given a 3.6 in importance and only 2.8 thought that the need was being addressed.

Other areas highlighted by the survey (with expectations in parenthesis):

Emergency management: 4.1 (3.6)

Solid waste collection, or garbage: 4.1 (3.6)

County parks: 4 (3.2)

Traffic signal and sign maintenance: 4 (3.4)

Jail-detention: 3.9 (3.6)

Libraries: 3.9 (3.3)

Veterans assistance: 3.9 (3)

The three lowest ranked areas of citizen importance were: Housing authority assistance, with a 3 ranking; the airport at 3 and communications-outreach-government broadcasting at 3.1.

THE Bus, Hernando County’s mass transit system, only garnered a 3.2 interest from citizens.

The survey asked specific questions, including: “Is it most important to keep taxes and fees as low as possible even if it means reducing the current level of programs and services?”

Sixty-three percent responded “no” and 37 percent said “yes.”

When asked if there is a level of revenue increase acceptable if it means preserving current levels of programs and services, 71 percent said yes and 29 percent no.

County Administrator Len Sossamon said he will use these responses to guide him as he continues to craft a long-term strategic plan for Hernando County.

County commissioners will discuss the citizens’ survey at their meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

To view the entire survey, visit http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1374

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