standing Charlestown Town Hall

CHARLESTOWN — Analysis of a survey conducted earlier this year determined that 9 in 10 town residents have a positive view of the community as a good place to safely and enjoyably live, raise children, visit and retire.

Charlestown has its needs, however, and residents said that although they are happy with the overall general quality of life and town operations, there were still concerns over job availability in town, access to affordable housing, coastal erosion and other environmental issues facing the southern New England shoreline community.

The results were part of the analysis returned by staff with the Polco National Research Center in October, which are now available on the town’s website, following a townwide survey commissioned by the Charlestown Town Council earlier this year. In fact, 92% of those surveyed expressed positive ratings for their feelings of safety and the overall image of Charlestown.

“About 9 in 10 residents gave positive ratings to Charlestown as a place to live, raise children, retire, visit and enjoy its rural character and open space,” the analysis said. “Ninety-four percent said the overall quality of life was excellent or good. Where comparisons were available, all these ratings were much higher than the national benchmark.”

According to survey analysis, the town received 2,270 completed survey responses, including 359 online responses and 1,911 mail responses. The response rate represented 24% of the 9,400 addresses contacted for the purpose of the townwide survey.

The analysis also determined that the town services and facilities met high standards, and that most residents believe the town government is providing good value in return for taxes paid.

According to the survey, 70% of residents are satisfied with the senior center and its programs; 75% were satisfied with the quality and opportunities provided with town-sponsored events; 76% were satisfied with the stormwater management and wastewater management; 77% were satisfied with animal control services; 79% were satisfied with parks and recreation activities; 82% were satisfied with town parks and recycling services; 83% were satisfied with snow plowing and sanding; 85% were satisfied with customer service by town employees and overall quality of town services; and 86% were satisfied with the amount of protected, town-owned open space.

The survey contains a 2.1% margin of error, the company said.

“Almost all the services that could be compared to benchmarks received ratings that were higher than the national benchmarks,” the analysis said.

While residents were also mostly pleased with the local economy, the town received lower ratings in regard to the community as a place to work. While almost half of respondents said they did not know enough to rate this category, only 53% of those with an opinion thought the town was “excellent” or “good” as a place to work.

While 71% rated the local economy and 65% rated overall business and service establishments as excellent or good, areas of improvement included availability of affordable housing, which received only a 33% approval rating; dining at 38%; shopping at 32%; and employment opportunities at 24%, all lower than national benchmarks.

Asked to rate job growth, 43% said they did not know enough to do so and 55% thought it was too slow.

Residents also expressed considerable concerns toward coastal seashore erosion, with 88% of those responding identifying it as at least a minor problem; 87% identifying beach overcrowding and sea level rise as issues; and 78% pointing to pollution of coastal salt ponds

“Fewer said well-water pollution and air quality were a problem, but when residents were asked what to prioritize for the investment of tax dollars and staff time in the coming two years, top priorities were protecting the environment (94%), keeping taxes low (92%), helping mitigate pollution from septic systems (87%) and preventing well water contamination (87% essential or very important),” the analysis states.

Residents also expressed various desires in the development of Ninigret Park, which 92% reported using at least once in the past year, and were presented with a list of amenities that could be developed at at the park as part of the survey before being asked which ones they would like to see and which ones they would not. Approximately 75% indicated they wanted more walking or jogging trails and additional restrooms, while few, only 1 in 10, said they would oppose adding these amenities.

About 6 in 10 also supported adding an outdoor ice skating rink or an arboretum/tree farm, with about 14% saying they would rather not add them. About half would like to see improvements or additions for sports fields, a naval or air museum, a smaller band shell for up to 1,000 attendees, volleyball courts and/or a new recreation or community center. For approximately a quarter of residents, however, costs and other community needs were of greater concern.

“Strongest opposition was to the idea of adding a football field (half did not want to see this) and 4 in 10 did not want to see more large festivals, concession stands, or a large band shell added,” the analysis said.

For complete survey results and analysis, visit the town of Charlestown website at charlestownri.gov and click the link in the banner at the top of the page.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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