Freeport poll suggests FEDC has work to do

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FREEPORT — A majority of residents feel the Town Council is doing a pretty good job and that the Freeport Economic Development Corp. may not be deserving of tax support, according to a survey conducted by the Save Our Neighborhoods Coalition and presented Tuesday at a council meeting.

The Save Our Neighborhoods Coalition, a nonprofit citizens group formed in 2012, conducted the survey at the polls during the November 2013 election and received 182 responses. The anonymous survey included 10 questions about the town’s government, business, and tourism.

“It’s not us putting a spin on something,” said Roben Voigt, a member of the coalition’s board of directors. “These are questions we were asked many times, so they’re coming to you the way we heard them.”

Sixty-three percent of respondents said local government was moderately effective at solving problems in their neighborhoods, while 11 percent said it was extremely effective, 19 said it was ineffective, and 7 percent said it was very ineffective.

Thirty percent of respondents said it is not acceptable for the FEDC, a private nonprofit that helps businesses open or expand, to receive tax dollars to develop and promote Freeport businesses; 22 percent called it a terrible idea, 31 percent said it might be a good idea, and 17 percent said it is a good idea.

“Let the free enterprise system figure it out. If a business can make it, great. If not, too bad,” one respondent said, according to Tuesday’s presentation.

“We need better, more integrated planning for all the development businesses are pursuing,” another said.

Only 13 percent of respondents said they felt the town had too many tourists, and a vast majority said the streets in their neighborhood were well maintained.

Schools were identified as by far the most important area for town funding, followed by land conservation. Tourism and marketing were deemed least important; public safety, roads, planning, recreation, and historic preservation fell somewhere in the middle.

Councilors thanked the coalition for its work, but were unsure how they might use the results. They did note that the survey fell in line with one of their 2014 goals: to “reach out to residents to identify attainable action items for the council to take in an effort to improve” residents’ quality of life.

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve its 2014 goals, which include broad objectives related to cooperation, budgeting, stabilizing the tax rate, and supporting the Regional School Unit 5 withdrawal committee. An additional goal, under the heading of safety, calls for the council to “assess the resources, readiness and preparedness of the municipality to address extreme weather and catastrophic events.”

In other business, the council unanimously approved a request for use of town property by the Center for Wildlife Health Research, which will hold a fine arts and crafts fair in Bow Street Park on July 26. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Community Spay-Neuter Clinic in Freeport.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.