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City services, casino spending met with disapproval in Niagara Falls survey

NIAGARA FALLS – More than half of the people who took a recent City Council survey said they disapproved of the quality of the city’s street paving, snowplowing and garbage and recycling pickup services.

Meanwhile, only about one in four people think the spending of the city’s share of casino revenue has had some positive impact on economic growth in the community.

And nearly 60 percent of respondents said they “do not feel safe from crime” in the city.

The results of the City Council survey, unveiled at last week’s Council meeting, showed the effort reached many people and brought out both positive and negative comments, said Chairman Andrew P. Touma.

“A lot of people want a clean, safe city,” Touma said. “They want the basic services consistently, each and every week, each and every day. And they want the Council and administration to continue to communicate and to be fiscally responsible.”

The survey was released in February. Between Feb. 13 and March 31, respondents could pick up paper copies in various offices in City Hall and the Niagara Falls Public Library, as well as fill out the survey online through the Council’s Facebook page.

The Council received 489 responses to the survey – the city has just fewer than 50,000 residents – which Touma said means it was not a scientific one. There was no scientific sampling done, and those who responded tend to be people who already feel strongly about an issue or issues, he said.

Here are some of the survey results:

• 58 percent of respondents either “disapproved” or “strongly disapproved” of the city’s snowplowing services.

• 56 percent either “disapproved” or “strongly disapproved” of its paving services.

• 53 percent either “disapproved” or “strongly disapproved” of curbside garbage and recycling pickup services.

• 59 percent of respondents said they “do not feel safe from crime in Niagara Falls.”

• 24 percent said the city’s use of its share of casino revenue has had a “positive” or “somewhat positive” impact on economic development.

In terms of what’s next, the Council plans to act based on the results, including reviewing the city’s overnight parking policies and increased sealing of roads, Touma said.

It also plans to develop a spending plan for casino funds that prioritizes projects, he said.

As for why the Council conducted the survey, Touma said, “Not everyone can make it to a Council meeting. Not everyone is comfortable calling their Council members. Not everyone has Facebook, but everyone’s voice counts so we wanted to give people another avenue to reach us and to talk to us about how they feel about the city and its services.”

The Council has created one email address where senders will be able to reach all five lawmakers. That address is city.council@niagarafallsny.gov. The members’ individual addresses still work.

Touma said the Council should always be in the process of self-assessment of its operations.

“We’re not here to avoid difficult situations,” he said. “We’re here to work with everyone to resolve the issues, to improve services, and that’s our goal.”

email: abesecker@buffnews.com