Fort Smith City Directors discussed plans to move forward on a comprehensive citizen survey at the Tuesday (June 26) Study Session.
Fort Smith Administrator Ray Gosack told The City Wire following the session that the last survey was conducted in 2007, and that estimated costs for the current survey should run “a little less than $9,000.”
“It’s a national survey we’ll be sending out to several hundred households, just to see how we’re doing, and it will cover everything from traffic congestion to street conditions to water quality to parks to fire and police,” Gosack said.
Gosack said the survey will ask many of the same questions as others throughout the United States, so “Fort Smith can compare how it’s doing to other cities,” but noted that the survey “does allow you to customize some questions if there is a particular issue in your city that you would like feedback on.”
One “customizable” issue that will turn up on the survey — how effectively are elected officials communicating with the citizens of Fort Smith?
The Fort Smith Board of Directors advised Gosack to consult with Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman and Tracy Winchell, communications manager for the city of Fort Smith, on developing questions that will highlight communication issues that exist between City Directors and Fort Smith residents.
City Director Don Hutchings speculated that there was no communication issue between the board and Fort Smith residents.
“Perception is reality. If the community thinks we don’t communicate well, then we have a problem to deal with. I personally disagree with that. I think this board communicates far beyond the call of duty,” Hutchings explained.” A lot of us meet one-on-one with our constituents. We have town hall meetings, Facebook, e-mail. So is it a lack of communication or just disagreement?”
To Hutchings’ question, Winchell said a recurring complaint from citizens she has been hearing is that “it seems the city tells us what to do and doesn’t really listen to what we think,” and recommended “asking deeper questions” to determine “how issues directly impact a citizen.”
Winchell also recommended the board consider “seeking out a communications facilitator” to help City Directors “with the multitude and variety of interactions with constituents, reporters, administration, and staff.”
While City Directors were open to the idea, all agreed to wait for the survey results and consider taking action after the November election has determined the new board makeup, since Hutchings and City Director Steve Tyler are not seeking re-election, and City Director George Catsavis faces competition from candidate John Cooley for the Ward 4 position.
Also Tuesday, the board decided to hold a special meeting at 12 p.m., Friday (June 29), to replace the regularly scheduled meeting set for July 3. The lack of a quorum for the July 3 meeting was cited as reason for the move.
The following items will be on the June 29 agenda.
• A resolution approving the acceptance of a deed from the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) for land to be used in the construction of the River Valley Sports Complex (RVSC).
• A resolution approving an amendment to the application to the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Reserve Affairs for the Arkansas Army National Guard to perform clearing, grading, and earth work for the RVSC at Chaffee Crossing.
• A resolution authorizing the Mayor to designate and authorize a contract with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, Inc., for administration services of the Arkansas Community and Economic Development Grant for the River Bend Industries expansion.