KHOZ Radio recently distributed an online survey to residents of Boone County Arkansas and nearby communities concerning the proposed Harrison Community Center project. The survey was distributed via Facebook and direct email from September 10-16. Facebook respondents totaled 332. Of the 359 business owners that received a direct email, 133 responded. An additional 10 respondents were acquired through a link posted to hometowndailynews.com bringing the total completed surveys to 475.
The results of the survey represent 217 residents of the City of Harrison, 234 residents of Boone County (Outside Harrison city limits) and 24 others. Residents of the City of Harrison will be the only people eligible to vote in the special election this November, and of those residents, 75% feel that the city does not currently have enough recreational amenities for its citizens. However, only 31% said they plan to use the community center on a regular basis if it is built, with the remaining 24% unsure. As for those outside of the city limits 29% said they plan to use the facility on a regular basis and 19% were unsure.
Another portion of the survey asked respondents on a scale of 1-10 how strongly they felt the community center would benefit the health, economic development, and youth of the community. Overall, the average percentage that responded negatively to these questions (0-5) was 51%, whereas 32% or respondents felt strongly (9-10) that the community center would benefit the community in all these areas, with 16% remaining passive (6-8). The difference in response between those living outside the city limits and those living within were nearly identical. Those living outside the city limits responding slightly more negative.
Respondents were also asked how strongly they felt the project was worth the proposed investment of $39.9 million. 24% responded strongly in favor (9-10), with an additional 15% responding passively (6-8). The remaining 61% responded negatively (0-5). 55% of respondents rated the investment between 0-3. In addition to the worth of the project, respondents were also asked if they felt the proposed sales taxes to build and maintain the center were a fair and adequate request. 38% responded “yes,” 49% said “no” and 13% were unsure.
In regards to maintaining the facility 33% felt the proposed ¼% permanent sales tax is adequate to maintain the facility at a high level, while 43% said no, and 24% were unsure. Respondents were also asked if they felt a smaller, less expensive, center would be a better alternative to the current plan. 55% said “yes,” 45% said “no.”
The City of Harrison recently released a list of proposed membership fees for the center that were published on social media. Respondents were asked if they felt the proposed fees were fair and affordable for families of all sizes and income levels. 18% said they had not seen the proposed fees. Of those who presumably had seen the fees, 45% responded “yes”, 55% responded “no.” In relation to age, the most positive response came from the 35-44 age group, of which 40% believed the proposed fees were fair. The most negative response came form those 19-24, of which 60% responded “no.”
The City of Harrison has been releasing more details regarding the project over the last few weeks, with Mayor Jerry Jackson often taking to Facebook to personally answer questions and concerns from the community. This survey revealed that 52% of respondents are satisfied with the job the city has done informing the public about the project. However, when asked how strongly they trust the information given by the city, on a scale of 1-10, 55% responded negatively (0-5).
Of those who believe the city has done a good job of informing the public, 50% responded that they strongly (9-10) trust the information they’ve received, 25% responding 7-8, and 23% said their level of trust in that information was 6 or below.
Question #13 asked respondents that thought the city has not done an adequate job of informing the public about the project to write what questions they felt remained unanswered. A total of 133 responses were recorded. Some of the more common questions included the size and expense of the proposed center and why a smaller, less expensive option has not been presented. Some questioned whether members of the city government would benefit financially from the sale of land and the construction, with some singling out Real Estate Agent/ City Clerk Jeff Pratt who will represent the city in the sale of the land designated for the project. Pratt has stated publicly that he does not plan to waive his fee for the sale, as there are no legal obligations requiring him to do so.
Others questioned the location of the center and why the city doesn’t repurpose existing facilities such as the former Harrison Junior High School complex which is for sale. Mayor Jackson has said the school property is not feasible due to the flood-plane it resides in. Some questioned if upkeep of the center would be feasible and stated their concerns about the condition of the city’s current amenities such as the Burlesworth Youth Center and the city pool. Others said they feel that while the information regarding the project may be publicly available it has not been distributed and presented to the community in a timely manner as some say this project is being rushed through to get it on the ballot this year.
Respondents also had the option to leave their own comments about the survey when it was completed. Some responded positively to the community center saying that it is, “Much needed for our community to continue to grow and prosper.” Another respondent said, “Harrison needs to move forward economically and…improve the quality of life for its citizens.” Mayor Jackson has defended the project stating that interest rates are very low, making this a good time to borrow money. One respondent commented along those lines saying, “The People of Harrison have been wanting a recreational center like this for 20 years. Interest rates are low right now. This is the best time to move forward with a project of this magnitude.”
This survey was created and distributed by KHOZ Radio and had no input nor direct influence from the City of Harrison.
With any survey, it is difficult to ascertain quality results without any form of bias. No questions were presented with an agenda in mind, the survey was meant to determine the knowledge and awareness of the community about the project as well as their interest level and support for it. The primary method of distribution was Facebook, but special attention was given to business owners by a direct email sent to 359 business addresses in Harrison. These addresses were obtained from the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce’s website. In addition to the 133 responses to question #13 there were 41 comments left about the survey as a whole.
It is KHOZ’s goal to inform the public in any and all matters pertaining the community and the public’s input on this issue is greatly appreciated. The results of this survey have been published in their entirety, including all public comments, and are attached to this story.
Story by Coleman Taylor