by Tara Slate Donaldson, The Gainesville Times, 10 Aug 2006


“Results are in from the county’s annual citizen satisfaction survey and it comes as no surprise that residents are fed up with driving in Prince William County.

“As usual, voters had good things to say about libraries, the fire and police services and the county in general. But also as usual, planning and land use, growth and transportation were the low points of life in Prince William.

“‘The news is this year you kind of stayed the same,’ said Thomas Guterbock, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Survey Research, which conducted the survey.

“Guterbock told supervisors last week that overall satisfaction with the county government is 90.8 percent and that more than a third said they were ‘very satisfied’ with county services in general.

“The downside, he said, is that questions about traffic and development continue to generate low scores.

“Asked how they felt about the ease of getting around the county, citizens said they weren’t happy. ‘Getting around’ scored 39.6 percent satisfaction, the lowest of any other area. And that number has been sinking.

“‘”Getting around” is the one that’s really going down fast,’ Guterbock said, displaying a chart that illustrates the ‘getting around’ satisfaction dropping from more than 50 percent in 2002 to 39.6 percent in 2006.

“Citizens are also not happy about the county’s growth (44.5 percent satisfied) or its policies on planning and land use (44.9 percent).

“And, Guterbock said, the number of citizens who trust the county government has gone down a little.

“‘I have no idea why this is, but it went from 64 percent last year to 60 percent,’ he said, adding that Brentsville area residents are least likely to trust their government, while those in Lake Ridge and Occoquan are the most likely. In addition, African-Americans are less trusting than whites, but the surveyors were surprised to find that age doesn’t make a difference when it comes to trust.

“On the bright side, residents were extremely pleased with many of the county’s services. Libraries topped the list again this year, pulling in a 99.2-percent satisfaction rating. The new Balls Ford Road compost facility also scored a 99. The county landfill, fire protection and medical rescue services also ranked in the top five.

“The police department, usually a top-five item, also scored high but was bumped out of the top five this year by ‘that upstart compost facility,’ Guterbock said.

“The UVA staff also asked residents whether they want to have fewer services and lower taxes or more services and higher taxes. Most, about 61.8 percent, said they believe things should stay about the same. Roughly 11 percent wanted fewer services and lower taxes. The same number wanted more services and higher taxes. The rest had other ideas, Guterbock said, adding that many said they want to have it both ways — more services and lower taxes.

“The scientific survey of 1,439 randomly selected residents was conducted by phone between May 8 and June 23. The margin of error was less than 3 percent and the survey cost $56,500. This was the first year that Spanish-speaking residents were also included. In the past, the survey could only be taken by English-speakers but this year, when respondents answered the phone, they were given the option of having a Spanish-speaking surveyor call back to ask the questions in Spanish.”

Top five:

Libraries: 99.2 percent

Balls Ford Road compost facility: 99 percent

Landfill: 98.3 percent

Fire protection: 97.9 percent

Medical rescue: 95.7 percent

Bottom five:

Getting around the county: 39.6 percent

Growth: 44.5 percent

Planning and land use: 44.9 percent

Citizen input on development: 68.5 percent

Preventing neighborhood deterioration: 68.7 percent