Shrewsbury town leaders weigh feedback from community survey

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Shrewsbury town leaders recently discussed the results of a community survey. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – Residents think that Shrewsbury is a great place to live.

They also, though, have noted room for growth and improvement.

Those are some of the key findings from the National Community Survey, which was administered to residents and presented to the Board of Selectmen during its May 24 meeting last week.

Town Manager Kevin Mizikar thanked community members for providing feedback as he presented results.

“A lot of it is really meaningful,” he said.

Mizikar said the results will now be wrapped into the town’s Shrewsbury 2030 Strategic Planning Process.

Survey results show positive feedback

Mizikar told the Community Advocate following the presentation to the Selectmen that, when the Selectmen were developing their approach for the strategic plan they knew they wanted a “high level” of community engagement.

Other communities throughout the country conduct this type of survey on a regular cycle, he said. 

So, Mizikar said Shrewsbury opted to use Polco and the National Research Center and their National Community Survey model to “understand” how Shrewsbury is performing in the eyes of residents, and in comparison to other communities.

This was the first time that Shrewsbury administered a National Community Survey.

In total, there were 614 total responses received.

Mizikar noted that Shrewsbury ranked similar or higher than the national average in about 94% of the categories measured on the survey.

According to Mizikar’s presentation, nine out of every 10 respondents gave either excellent or good ratings for the overall quality of life and image or reputation of the town. They also gave those ratings to Shrewsbury as a good place to live and raise children. 

Residents further praised Shrewsbury’s quality of services with 81% giving good or excellent ratings.

Residents note mobility, water quality concerns

Two areas where Shrewsbury scored lower than average were in regards to mobility and water quality.

Forty-nine percent of residents gave good or excellent ratings on the quality of drinking water.

As a result, Mizikar said that Shrewsbury has invested funds in improving its water quality, noting efforts like the construction of Shrewsbury’s new water treatment plant as well as the town’s unidirectional flushing program.

Mizikar said this issue may be more of a marketing and information challenge. 

“I think we need to inform the residents better on the improvements that we’ve made to the water, what we’re doing proactively to remove those contaminants that have made its way into our water supply,” he said.

During last week’s Selectmen meeting, Board Chair Moe DePalo said he didn’t find any surprises in the survey results, though he said some of the results were interesting.

“I thought for the most part, particularly in areas where we might have scored lower, that the public was probably right on, especially in the mobility area,” DePalo said.

DePalo described public transportation in the area as “not great,” saying biking was “relatively dangerous” on area roads.

Results indicated that 28% of respondents gave good or excellent ratings in regards to the ease of travel by bicycle, while 22% gave those ratings for the ease of travel by public transportation. 

“I think it’s interesting because it may be signaling an opportunity for us to provide a new service or think about partnering with the WRTA more than we have in the past,” Mizikar said of possible responses to this data.

Town leaders consider next steps

Incorporating survey data with other public engagement feedback, Mizikar said the Board of Selectmen will be rolling out proposed priorities for the town’s strategic plan.

Moving forward, there will be public forums for residents to weigh in on that plan. 

Once affirmed by residents, the town will begin to build programs, projects and strategies to make improvements under its strategic plan. 

In the meantime, the full survey report can be found online at tinyurl.com/2p8tfb63.

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