More than 600 residents of Elbert County completed and returned the county’s first Citizen Engagement Survey, which was mailed to 12,000 property owners of record this spring. The survey was …
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More than 600 residents of Elbert County completed and returned the county’s first Citizen Engagement Survey, which was mailed to 12,000 property owners of record this spring. The survey was designed to identify major topic areas of concern and importance to residents, according to County Manager Sam Albrecht, who presented the findings at the June 27 Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Ninety-three percent of respondents said they felt safe living in Elbert County, and 71 percent said they were concerned about growth in the county, and the loss of rural feel and values as the county grows. Respondents said they thought future development should include single-family homes on lots of five to 10 acres to maintain the rural environment.
They also expressed concern about crime as the county grows, as well as the issue of building and maintaining roads throughout the area to accommodate growth. Some feared the county could become overpopulated.
The survey, which addressed issues such as growth, crime, water and interactions with county officials, is the first step in opening the lines of communication between the public and county officials.
”We hope to see good changes by the time we do next year’s survey,” said Albrecht.
The survey provided questions that could be rated by checking the appropriate box, giving Albrecht and the commissioners some hard statistics to work with, but residents were also encouraged to write in any other questions or concerns that were bothering them.
“Seventy percent of those who responded said they were satisfied with the interaction they’ve had with county employees,” said Albrecht.
Residents were asked their thoughts on Elbert County government and elected officials, and responses were mixed. Twelve percent of respondents believed the county was on the right track for future growth and development, 33 percent indicated they thought the county was on the wrong track, and 40 percent said it depended on the office or department.
Forty-eight percent said they were only moderately familiar with the Elbert county government. Distrust of Elbert County commissioners was also addressed in the write-in section.
“Some responses indicated that they believed the BOCC doesn’t listen to citizens, they pursue their own interests and only want growth and increased revenue,” said Albrecht.
Commissioners listened to the results and harsh criticisms, and said they hoped the survey would provide an opportunity for citizens to become more involved with county issues. When asked how many people usually attended BOCC meetings, Commissioner Danny Willcox gestured to the room, which included eight residents in attendance.
“This is about it,” said Willcox. “We usually get the same people, but this is about it for people coming to meetings.”
A perceived lack of transparency from county government is one of the reasons the survey was sent out, according to Justin Klassen, director of administration and public information officer for Elbert County.
“We’re working on getting some things in place that will let citizens know what’s going on in the county,” said Klassen. “We’re trying to keep our Facebook page updated, and working on making the county website more user-friendly.”
Klassen recommends visiting the Elbert County website at www.elbertcounty-co.gov first for information, and urges citizens to read the Elbert County News to keep up to date. The Elbert County public information page on Facebook is also a good source for information, according to Klassen. The county is also working on a new software system that will make BOCC agendas and documents more accessible to residents.
Albrecht said they hope to increase the number of responses to next year’s survey, and will utilize more social media, news announcements, listening sessions and face-to-face opportunities for citizens to weigh in.
“I think this is a good first step in reaching out to citizens in a way we haven’t done before,” said Albrecht. “The real intent was to start reaching out to citizens, that’s been a priority for these commissioners.
The BOCC meets at 9 a.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, and meetings are open to the public. Information about upcoming or past meetings can be found at www.elbertcounty-co.gov.
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