Overall, Pasco County fared well in recent citizen surveys intended to help inform the county’s planning in its allocation of resources, and to improve its programs and policies.
“This is what we call our voice of the customer,” Marc Bellas, performance management director for Pasco County, told the Pasco County Commission during a recent meeting.
In terms of overall government services, the county scored above the national benchmark of 67%, Bellas said.
“This is the highest rating we’ve ever had, since we’ve been doing this here in Pasco County since 2009,” he said, noting the goal in the county’s strategic plan is to score 70 percent.
“We believe in the next year that we’re going to be able to do that,” he said.
According to the survey, 72% of Pasco residents rated the county as a good or excellent place to live. That’s up 5% over last year.
Two-thirds gave the county excellent or good ratings for its customer services.
In terms of the economy, Bellas said all of the dimensions are trending up.
“That’s very good news in Pasco County,” he said.
“Usually, employment opportunities and Pasco’s a good place to work have always been the very lowest, but you can see that we’re now trending upwards from 2014. That’s good news. That means that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Those were just some of the findings from the National Community Survey, which was conducted through the National Research Center Inc., in collaboration with the International City/County Management Association.
The survey was developed to provide a statistically valid survey of resident opinions, regarding their community and services provided by local government. About 350 communities participate in the survey annually, according to Bellas’ presentation to commissioners.
This year’s survey was distributed to 1,600 selected addresses in Pasco County, with 263 surveys completed, representing an 18 percent return rate. The results have a plus or minus 6% margin of error.
In addition to the surveys that were distributed, the county conducted an online citizen survey, using the same questions.
The county does the online survey primarily for comparisons, Bellas said.
“It is not a statistically valid instrument, but we find the correlations between the two to be very, very close,” Bellas said. The online survey gives citizens who were not selected for the survey a chance to express their views. This year 1,748 citizens took part.
Bellas said the survey looks at eight facets of livable communities: safety, mobility, the natural environment, the built environment, the economy, recreation and wellness, education and enrichment, and community engagement.
“In our particular survey, for our folks, the three most important areas were safety, mobility and the economy,” Bellas said.
“When we look at the Impact on the overall quality of life, safety is always at the very top.
Safe neighborhoods, and safe and uncongested roadways — are No. 1 and No. 2.
“The folks who took the survey consider these to be essential, or at the very least, very important,” he said.
Most of this year’s ratings were similar to last year’s, Bellas said.
But, the county did see “some significant downward movement in the mobility piece,” he said.
Regarding mobility, the people using Pasco County’s bus system gave it favorable marks.
But, motorists were less complimentary.
“There are some downward trends here, ease of car travel, specifically, traffic flow, traffic enforcement — those are some concerns for us, because they are downward trends,” Bellas said.
There also are concerns about traffic congestion, light timing and speeding, Bellas noted.
Sgt. Steve Gaskins, of the Florida Highway Patrol, said there are 24 troopers assigned to Pasco County.
“We work everything in unincorporated areas of the county,” he said, noting “we had roughly 5,000 crashes so far (this year). We worked 85 percent of them with our 24 troopers.
“We’ve had 55 fatalities in the county, this year alone,” Gaskins added.
“One of our big issues is getting to people who need help, as quickly as possible,” he said.
He also acknowledged concerns about speeding.
“Speeding is one of the huge complaints that I get all of the time from residents across the county,” Gaskins said.
If there were more troopers, they could be more proactive, Gaskins said. “We could do more activity to stem the tide of those crashes,” he said.
Additional equipment also would help with speed control and enforcement, he said.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore asked how many troopers Gaskins thought were needed.
“If I had a wish list, I would say 50,” Gaskins responded.
Chase Daniels, of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, said efforts are being made to identify problem areas for speeding, and in the development of enforcement action plans.
Daniels also noted: “We are increasing our radar-certified officers.”
In terms of mobility, both Moore and Commission Chairman Ron Oakley noted a number of recent improvements and projects that will be coming soon that they expect to create much better mobility across the county.
Specifically, they mentioned the Diverging Diamond being built to relieve congestion at State Road 56 and Interstate 75; the recent extension of State Road 56 to U.S. 301; and work underway to widen State Road 52 and State Road 54.
Other future projects that will be done in coming years include a new alignment for State Road 52 near Dade City and a new I-75 interchange at Overpass Road.
Published August 28, 2019