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updated: 6/24/2014 12:21 AM

Survey: Wheaton resident satisfaction beats national average

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Resident satisfaction in Wheaton is well above the national average, according to a communitywide survey recently concluded in the city.

The survey was administered by the ETC Institute, a market research firm that serves city and county governments across the nation. It fulfilled two strategic goals identified by the council.

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ETC Institute Vice President Chris Tathum reviewed the results of Wheaton's survey with the city council during a planning session Monday night.

Surveys were mailed to a random sample of 2,000 households in mid-February. Of the 683 households that responded, 95 percent rated the city as an "excellent" or "good" place to live.

In addition, 94 percent said they were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the overall feeling of safety in the city, and 84 percent said they were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the overall quality of services provided by the city.

"You should be very proud of yourself," Tathum said. "I don't get to come into a lot of communities and tell them that they're doing as awesome as you are. That's as simple as I can put it."

An additional 363 residents completed the survey online, which provided more community input but were not included in the random sample results.

Wheaton was rated at or above the national average in 54 of 66 areas that were assessed. That included 34 categories that were 10 percent or more above the national average.

The highest-rated categories included:

• Quality of services provided by the city (28 percent above average)

• Feeling of safety in parks (26 percent above average)

• Effectiveness of city communication with the public (25 percent above average)

Other highly ranked categories included the overall cleanliness of city streets and other public areas, the feeling of safety in neighborhoods at night and residential recycling services.

Of the categories Wheaton ranked below the national average, the effectiveness of the stormwater runoff and management system was the worst, at 24 percent below average.

Other low ranked categories included:

• Programming on the city's cable TV channel (23 percent below average)

• Efforts to use social media and emerging technology to keep residents informed (20 percent below average)

• Condition of sidewalks (11 percent below average)

Still, 96 percent of respondents rated the city as an "excellent" or "good" place to raise children, and 90 percent said they were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the overall quality of life in the city.

"Most communities around the country, their goal is to be average or above average," Tathum said. "A city like Wheaton, you've gotten this way from years of good planning. You have a great staff, obviously good customer service, and you've built a great brand."

Some recommended priorities the ETC Institute identified for the city to focus on in the next two years included maintenance of city streets and sidewalks, management of city finances, a look at how well the city is preparing for the future and flow of traffic and congestion management.

A few council members voiced confusion about why residents thought those areas needed improvement, considering the work already done to address them, such as the city's ongoing sidewalk replacement program and the maintenance of a AAA bond rating.

Tathum said it's great council members were concerned about the lower ranking categories but stressed that overall, the city is on the right track.

"You're at the top of the mark, so part of it is just how do you stay there," he said. "If you want to be better, kind of address those areas over the next few years and I think you'll actually see your ratings go even higher."

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