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County will seek resident opinions

Some Dakota County residents will soon have the opportunity to share their opinions about what values they consider most important living in Dakota County.

Dakota County will send a survey to find out what's important to residents and learn how they feel about Dakota County.

Dakota County has been surveying residents every two to three years for the past 20 years. Survey results are used to gather information about residents' perceptions of their quality of life, the quality of services and their overall satisfaction with county government. County officials value the information gathered through the survey and hope to receive responses from as many residents as possible.

The survey will be mailed to 2,500 randomly selected households in late February. Survey results will be available in May, in time for county officials to review before the next budget cycle. The county chose to mail this year's survey instead of conducting it by telephone, to reach those who have dropped their home telephone service and use cell phones exclusively.

The county is working with the National Research Center, a leading strategic planning and research firm, to do the survey.

The last survey, in 2008, was administered by phone to a random sample of 706 residents from March 5 to April 6, 2008. Approximately 100 surveys were completed in each of seven county commissioner districts, with an average length of 22 minutes. A total of 9,705 phone numbers were dialed during the survey administration.

Of the 3,246 households called, 706 completed interviews, a response rate of 22 percent. Approximately 668 households refused the survey.

Findings from 2008 were fairly positive. Some concerns surfaced, with the highest levels of concern expressed about community growth, taxes, public transportation, traffic congestion and the health of residents in the county. Survey results indicated, however, that most residents value a wide variety of aspects of life in Dakota County and the services being provided to them by the county.

As in previous years, a large majority of Dakota County residents who were surveyed described their quality of life as "good" or "excellent." There were some differences in ratings among districts, with Districts 1 and 2 rating quality of life lower than did residents in the other districts. Overall, though, residents' perceptions placed Dakota County characteristics above the norm for other counties in the United States. Respondents' reasons were varied, as in previous years, but many stated that they enjoyed the location, parks and lakes, the rural quality, and the schools.

The county characteristics that survey respondents rated highest were the availability of parks and the availability of trails, although their ratings of parks and trails were below the national benchmark.