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Economic outlook not good, say Durango residents in community survey

Questionnaire compares sentiments to other municipalities
A National Community Survey administered by Polco found residents in Durango are pleased with transportation accommodations, parks and recreation services, and police and fire services. But access to affordable and quality housing and child care, and economic health of the city received lower scores from residents. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

According to residents surveyed this summer, Durango’s recreational opportunities, transportation services, and fire and EMS are in good condition. But the affordability, economic outlook and general direction of the city moving forward are a different story.

The National Community Survey was administered by Polco. It asked residents about 10 facets of livability in Durango and compared results to similar communities across the country.

It was mailed to 3,000 randomly selected households within Durango city limits on June 27 and was also available to all city households online. Seven hundred twenty-three households responded, Polco survey specialist Jason Neumeyer said.

The city performed above national benchmarks in the category of natural environment and parks and recreation. An overwhelming 94% of respondents said the overall quality of Durango’s natural environment was excellent or good, and another 90% of respondents said the overall quality of parks and recreational opportunities are excellent or good.

Survey-takers also showed favorable views of the state of transportation in the city (with an exception for the ease of parking, or the lack thereof), the safety of the city and the quality of fire and EMS services.

But just 54% of surveyed residents rated the city’s overall economic health positively, Neumeyer said.

Ninety-one percent of respondents said Durango is a nice place to visit, which is better than NCS results in other American communities according to Polco’s data. But less than half of respondents, 44%, said the city is a nice place to work – a result less common in other communities.

Neumeyer said only 3% of respondents indicated the economy would positively impact their family incomes in the next six months.

On specific issues such as affordable quality food, child care and housing, most survey-takers said the city is not in good shape, data shows.

Just 3% of respondents ranked affordable quality housing availability as good or excellent; likewise, 39% and 12% of respondents said affordable quality food and child care (including preschool) are in good or excellent conditions, respectively.

Councilor Dave Woodruff said an economic health rating of 54% is “an alarming statistic.”

“Forty-six percent of people think we don’t have a decent economic outlook for Durango and La Plata County,” he said.

Councilor Olivier Bosmans said some survey results were disappointing, if expected, and noted low scores on the local economy, workplaces and employment opportunities, parking availability, child care and local governance.

Overall, local governance in Durango scored similarly to other communities, with 79% of residents saying customer service by Durango employees is good or excellent. But the overall direction the city is headed, and fair treatment of all residents, scored lower than other communities with 42% good or excellent responses each.

“The low score for the direction Durango is taking, treating all residents fairly, confidence in government, (openness) and transparency, welcoming resident involvement, acting in the best interest of the community, informing residents about issues in the community and honesty – we need to do a lot better there. A lot better,” he said.

City Manager José Madrigal said the city’s first NCS catches only a snapshot of one moment in time – just one survey doesn’t tell the city whether it is improving or deteriorating on any given issue. Future surveys every two years will give a clearer picture of how resident feelings are trending.

The complete report of NCS results is available online in City Council’s Nov. 7 study session meeting agenda at https://bit.ly/49x9Xgj

cburney@durangoherald.com

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