Does Palm Coast need to dredge the canals in the city's C-Section? If so, how much should the city spend on an amenity with a relatively limited number of users?
The City Council would like to know what residents think, and the topic will be placed on this year's National Citizen Survey for Palm Coast residents.
Although most of the survey's questions, developed by the International City/County Management Association, are standardized nationwide so that cities can be compared with one another, cities can add three city-specific questions for free.
A month ago, it looked like Palm Coast City Council members were ready to select street lights, the city's stormwater swale system, and city street quality as the three topics for those questions: City staff had proposed asking residents about their satisfaction with each.
But at a council workshop Oct. 12, Councilman Ed Danko — who's mentioned resident concerns about the canals before, saying some have filled in enough that locals have to wait for high tide to take their boats out — had a new proposal: He suggested placing the topic of dredging on the citizen survey.
"It’s part of our city, like anything in our city," he said. "… We’re all in this together, and it’s a huge amenity."
Danko added that a dredging project could take years, and added, "It’s an issue we’re going to have to deal with sooner or later, and the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to get."
He suggested a survey question asking citizens if they believe the city should hire a consulting firm to explore potential canal dredging and what it would cost, and noted that grant money may be available for the dredging itself.
Mayor David Alfin agreed that the canals are an amenity the city needs to deal with, and that a survey question about dredging could be useful.
"Then we’ll get a reading on how many of our residents think it’s a priority," Alfin said. "So let's ask the public to see if they would be willing to invest in a study."
He asked city staff if adding a survey question about canal dredging would mean cutting one of the other three proposed topics.
Public Information and Engagement Director Brittany Kershaw confirmed that it would.
Alfin noted that the city has largely settled the future of streetlights in Palm Coast — the city now has an ongoing street lighting program to add them — and that community sentiment is already fairly clear: People want more lights. He suggested nixing the proposed streetlighting question in favor of a canal dredging question. Other council members agreed.
The National Citizen Survey, designed to be representative and scientifically valid, will be mailed out to 1,200 residents starting later this month.
An online version will also be available for people who didn't receive the mailed invitation but would like to take the survey. The results of the web-based and mailed surveys will be kept separate, to preserve the validity of the mailed version.