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Article updated: 7/25/2013 7:44 PM

Elgin resident survey put on hold

By Elena Ferrarin

Elgin residents won't get the chance to participate in a survey about their satisfaction with city services, at least for now.

A motion to spend $39,750 on a survey of about 800 residents to be done by Kansas-based ETC Institute died after a 4-4 vote at a special committee meeting Wednesday night.

Mayor David Kaptain and council members John Steffen, Tish Powell and Carol Rauschenberger voted in favor of the survey, which would include a written questionnaire and follow-up phone calls. Elgin last conducted a survey in 2007.

Councilman Terry Gavin said the survey can be done in-house, possibly by interns. "We have elections to get the opinion of the people," he said.

An in-house survey would likely be a staff member's full-time job for a few months, and might not save any money, City Manager Sean Stegall said.

Councilwoman Anna Moeller said she supports doing a survey, but the price tag was too steep. The city could look into working with local colleges, she said.

Councilman Toby Shaw said survey questions can be leading.

"I feel like we have a good handle on our city being run. I don't feel like people are hiding under rocks and not telling us their feedback," he said.

Powell said a professional consultant would give credibility to the survey.

Rauschenberger pointed out Elgin Area School District U-46 routinely conducts surveys of parents and employees.

Prigge questioned the value of tapping into the opinions of 800 residents out Elgin's 110,000 or so residents.

The survey's results would reflect the general population's opinions with 95 percent accuracy with a 4 percent margin of error, Stegall said.

"Factually speaking, there isn't a person on city staff or on city council that has any data that they can substantially say they know what they citizens think of the quality of our services," Stegall said. "You can have opinions or gut feelings, but this is the only way to know."

Chooch's Pizzeria co-owner Mike Butirro said Elgin should work with local high school or college students to get the survey done. "I'd rather see it go to them, and give them the credit," he said. "Also, kids with energy are always more fun (to work with)."

Elgin resident Wiley Harrison said he thinks the survey is a good idea, and hopes it will ask questions about transportation. "They need better transportation, especially to downtown and places like The Centre," he said.

The Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin is planning to conduct a survey of downtown business and building owners in the next couple of months, said Don Obenauf, DNA economic development director.

Two staff members and a committee member will work on the project, which will target about 100 people with 10 or 12 questions, he said.

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