Survey results not good for "Good Life City" - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Survey results not good for "Good Life City"

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

September 22, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - People in Albany apparently don't like the way things are run. The city surveyed citizens on 36 areas of performance, and all ranked below the average of other cities. The areas of greatest concern were customer service, economic development and public safety.

When city officials sent out a citizens survey earlier this year, they were expecting some negativity, but not this much. "Folks were not as positive about the community as we thought they were," said assistant City Manager Wes Smith.

While all 36 areas from street repair to senior services rank below benchmarks set by cities of similar size, there are three areas that stand out to city leaders: economic development, customer service and public safety. City Commissioner Roger Marietta said, "We've got a little bit of a paradox, being the 'Good Life City' and our inhabitants generally don't feel that way."

When it comes to the economy, 53% of those who responded said they believe the economy will have a somewhat negative or very negative impact on their family in the next six months. 80% said economic development was fair or poor.

The most telling figures, however, may be the way people feel about their safety. Mike Johnston said, "It's scary when you see some of the things that happen around town."

Of those surveyed, only 3% said they felt very safe regarding violent crimes. 58%, however, said they felt somewhat or very unsafe. City Commissioner Roger Marietta says the city needs to beef up the police force. "I personally think we need more police officers."

Smith said, "The city over time has actually reduced the number of officers by about 25 or 30 over the last 10 years. Certainly that may be something that we want to revisit or talk about." A gang task force being considered by the city, could add about 12 new officers.

One of the biggest areas of concern within the survey is the lack of customer service from city hall and city employees. Smith says that's one area they are already working to address.

He said, "We're going to try to implement some plans to make it easier to access government and easier to get service from government and to make us more responsive." In hopes the next time citizens respond about city services, it will be positive.

City managers now plan to meet with a citizens advisory committee to talk about the survey and look for ways to improve service.

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