Star phoenix, July 14, 2016 –
Roads and sidewalks remain the top issue of concern for Saskatoon residents, three years into an aggressive and expensive road repair program, according to a poll commissioned by the City of Saskatoon.
The telephone poll of 500 residents conducted by Insightrix Research Inc. between May 9 and June 3 showed roads and sidewalks ranked as the No. 1 issue.
The 32 per cent who named roads marked a slight decline from last year (33 per cent) and was also down from 2014 (37 per cent) and 2013 (36 per cent). Crime and policing was named as the top issue by nine per cent (compared to 12 per cent in 2015), while seven per cent cited traffic flow and congestion.
City council voted for a special road repair levy in 2014 that helped increase property taxes by an average of 5.58 per cent over the last three years.
“It’s consistent with what I’m hearing when I talk to people,” Coun. Charlie Clark said Thursday. “I am hearing that people are seeing improvement, but they don’t want us to take our foot off the gas.”
Clark, who has announced he intends to run for mayor in October, said when council embarked on the road improvement program, everyone knew it represented a long-term effort.
The city is spending $59 million on road repair and maintenance this year.
Road maintenance also topped the list of areas where residents surveyed wanted increased service (70 per cent), followed by affordable housing (54 per cent) and snow and ice management (46 per cent).
Forty-three per cent wanted more transit service and 33 per cent think the police service should be increased.
Like Clark, Coun. Troy Davies expected roads to still be identified as a top priority for residents, given the decrepit state the city’s road network was in when council began the improvement push.
“For me, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Davies said. “It’ll take a long time to catch up after 10 to 12 years of neglect.”
Mayor Don Atchison was unavailable to comment Thursday. Mayoral candidate Henry Dayday declined to comment on the survey.
The survey also found 89 per cent of respondents rated the quality of life in Saskatoon as good or very good and 80 per cent said they thought the city was on the right track to make Saskatoon better in 10 years.
“There’s a general message that people are proud of the city and we’re headed in the right direction,” Clark said of the survey results.
The survey also suggested 88 per cent of residents are satisfied or very satisfied with services provided by the city.
More than 60 per cent of respondents said they volunteered for at least one hour a month. Volunteer activity rises with age, the survey indicates, with 78 per cent of those over 55 donating their time, compared to 64 per cent for those aged 35-54 and 52 per cent for those aged 18-34.
The margin of error for the phone survey, which included 25 per cent cellphone users, is plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20.