Houston residents like the community’s quality of life, want the city to crack down on eyesores and continue to seek job opportunities for citizens.
Those are among the findings included in a recently completed 36-page report that gives information from a questionnaire that asked about every phase of life in the Texas County seat of government. Opinion Research Specialists LLC in Springfield issued the report after receiving responses from 53.3 percent of the city’s residents – it was the highest participation level in the firm’s 20-year history of completing studies in municipalities.
In all, 507 of the seven-page questionnaires were completed and returned. The survey has an error rate of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
City Administrator Larry Sutton said the information will be used as the city council works on a long-range plan to guide the city’s efforts during the next several years. “Overall, we’re quite pleased,” Sutton said of residents’ satisfaction. The reports also contain information that can be used by other public entities and merchants.
More than 80 percent of respondents gave positive ratings to Houston as a place to live and raise children. Employment opportunities ranked lowest: Only 14 percent thought employment opportunities were very good or good.
About 77 percent thought Houston was a good place to retire. Another 72 percent believe the overall attractiveness of the town is good. About 67 percent thought the quality of schools is good.
Overwhelmingly, 93 percent thought attracting more employment opportunities is important to Houston’s quality of life. Another 71 percent thought reducing crime is imperative. Of those responding, 70 percent want stricter zoning regulations and 62 percent thought development of more parks is important.
A majority of respondents – 63 percent – believe Houston’s desirability as a place to live has stayed the same over the past five years. Twenty-one percent thought it had become more favorable and 16 percent less desirable.
Where are the troublespots? Drugs are perceived as a “major problem” in Houston by nearly 50 percent. Others determined that major problems include: cluttered, junky yards/porches, 27 percent; houses and buildings in disrepair, 26; and unmowed, weedy lots/yards, 21.
About 95 percent said they felt safe in their neighborhood during the day and 84 percent felt secure in their home after dark.
Housing: A slim majority of residents (53 percent) believe Houston has too few single-family homes, entry-level starter homes. About 50 percent thought there too few multi-family (townhouses and condos) units.
Government: Listening to citizens, welcoming citizen involvement, responsiveness and spending local tax dollars wisely are perceived favorable by about 45 percent of respondents and unfavorably by around 20 percent.
About 46 percent think city government is headed in the right direction, 39 percent are not sure and another 15 percent believed it was on the wrong track.
Local issues: By 42-36 percent residents believe a new high school should be built, by 42-35 percent citizens don’t want to see an expansion of Texas County Memorial Hospital and by 3-to-1 residents don’t want to see local tax dollars used to restore historic buildings.
Most preferred an expansion of the city limits to the north (72 percent) or south (67 percent).
Nearly everyone (99 percent) thought the city should work to attract new businesses to the area, including light manufacturing (81), retail/sales (71), service (58), heavy manufacturing (57) and high tech (55).
Another 93 percent want the city to encourage existing businesses to expand locally and 83 percent want the city to work toward revitalization of the downtown business district.
City services: Citizens are most satisfied with fire protection, city parks and water service (more than 80 percent). Lowest on the dissatisfaction list was enforcement of city codes — only 36 percent were satisfied.
Vocational training and college-level classes were supported by 91 and 88 percent, respectively.
Community participation and civic involvement: Nearly everyone – 98 percent -read the Houston Herald during the last year, 86 percent had visited a park, 65 percent had been to the library, 59 percent recycle, 45 percent used the Internet to access information about city government, 35 percent participated in a city recreational program or activity and 15 percent had been to a city meeting.
Where do residents receive their information about the city? Nearly every respondent, 90 percent, said it came from the Houston Herald or its website, 41 percent learned from utility bill inserts, radio ranked 36 percent, contact with city staff was 29 percent and the city’s website, 17 percent.
A majority – 62 percent – believe they are “somewhat informed” about major issues facing the City of Houston. Eighteen percent thought they are “well informed.”
The city’s highest rated characteristics are the availability of paths and walking trails. The overall image or reputation of Houston pulled 68 percent of the respondents. Another 63 percent thought there are good opportunities to volunteer or participate in community matters. The overall quality of business and service establishments in total ranked with 55 percent favorability. At the bottom of the list: availability of affordable quality child care (31 percent) and recreational/entertainment options (22 percent).