Survey results from a Street Financing Public Dialogue survey were presented to the Laramie City Council during its work session on Tuesday to help the Council determine if streets are still a priority for the city in 2019.
Since June, the city has been hosting a series of meetings to evaluate current and future improvements to streets and storm drainage systems, culminating in the survey in October.
City Manager Janine Jordan said the series of meetings were meant to educate the public on what the city currently spends on road maintenance and improvements. She said although the recent passing of the specific purpose tax helps fund further the scope of the improvements, the city would need at least $150.5 million over the next 10 years to both improve the streets in town and pave the remaining gravel roads.
According to the results, about 34 percent of the 550 people who completed the survey said they would prefer basic ribbon paving, or just a road without sidewalk, curb and gutter. Similarly, about 28 percent said they would want another option — a fully-paved street, curb and gutter with wide sidewalks.
“Overwhelmingly folks really went for either the least or highest cost alternatives,” Jordan said. “I thought that was interesting.”
While over 90 percent of the 550 people who took the survey said they owned property in Laramie, 82 percent of them did not attend one of the public meetings about street improvements and funding.
One way to mitigate street improvement costs is through public-private partnership with land owners, something the city discussed with residents during the public meetings in September and October and via the survey. The partnership would mean residents with applicable property would pay a portion of the cost to pave the road next to it.
The results showed 22 percent of the people surveyed would be willing to pay a contribution to fund paving the streets by their homes. However, many survey responders said they are too poor to pay to help pave the streets or thought property taxes should be more than enough.
“We also had quite a few people — and I think we heard this as well verbally at the public meetings — say, ‘What’s wrong with gravel roads? I like my gravel road,’” Jordan said.
Jordan reminded the Council that the survey results are not indicative of a sample size of the population, but more to individual opinions. She added if the Council wanted a more statistic-driven approach, Council could use its one “flexible question” on the Citizen Survey to ask about street improvements. The Citizen Survey is conducted every 2-4 years and tends to ask the same questions every year to help the city compare itself both to other cities and past years, Jordan said. The one flexible question can be used by Council to determine public opinion on key topics.
Jordan added the new Council has a goal-setting retreat this month, where it can decide how to analyze the survey results and whether it wants to continue to make street and storm drainage improvements a priority over the next term.