Nearly 1,000 make their voices heard
Local residents overwhelmingly consider the Madras area a great place to live and raise children, with good schools, safe streets and excellent recreational opportunities.
On the flip side, housing is scarce, employment opportunities are lacking, and access to shopping is limited.
Those were among the results of a wide-ranging survey of Madras area residents conducted in February and presented to the Madras City Council April 10.
Sara Puddy, city human resources and administrative manager, and Lysa Vattimo, communications specialist, compiled the information from a total of 991 responses. The city mailed out 4,689 surveys to Madras area residences, with more than one-fifth of residents returning the survey.
A majority of the respondents (61 percent) lived in the city limits, with 39 percent outside the city. Most — 38 percent — were in the 51-69 age range, with 26 percent in the 35-50 range, 23 percent 70 or older, and 13 percent in the 18-34 range.
When asked how satisfied they are with the city's overall image, 55 percent were pleased, commenting that it's improving, while 29 percent were displeased, noting that the downtown area needs a facelift. Another 16 percent checked "no opinion."
A larger majority of residents — 72 percent — said they were pleased with Madras as a place to live. The 17 percent who were displeased wanted more for young families and children to do, more employment opportunities, more shopping, and improved schools.
Asked if they are pleased with Madras as a place to raise children, 47 percent marked yes, while 22 percent marked no. In comments, one resident wrote, "My kids left Madras and they were confident and resilient. Great place to be a kid."
Among the advantages or perks of the community were safety, small-town atmosphere, nice parks, the Madras Aquatic Center, the Performing Arts Center, varied ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and improving schools.
Some expressed displeasure with the lack of programs or clubs for kids, bullying, drug and alcohol problems, availability of marijuana, transients, and school system's poor ranking.
In general, people were pleased with recreational opportunities (69 percent), and arts and cultural opportunities (37 percent).
"They wanted community events — things for their family to do," said Vattimo, noting that some suggested bringing back the city's Collage of Culture, which ran from 1994-2008. Other suggestions included concerts, street fairs, and live music at restaurants and bars.
The 13-17 percent who weren't satisfied with recreational opportunities said that the city needs more family friendly events, adult activities and a dog park, and expressed concern about their safety in and around Sahalee Park after dark.
The sense of community was strong among respondents, with 52-55 percent pleased and 18-20 percent displeased, noting that people can be "cliquish," or view those who grew up outside of the community as outsiders.
On the topic of education, 39 percent were pleased with the educational opportunities, but 28 percent were displeased.
"Overall, respondents feel the reputation of 509-J is improving, but that it needs to continue on an upward trajectory," said Vattimo. "They are pleased that COCC (and OSU) are in our community, but feel COCC is underutilized and that they should offer more classes that will help get people gainfully employed, and special interest classes."
Only 25 percent were satisfied with employment opportunities, and 17 percent with the availability of housing, leaving 39 percent unhappy about employment and 50 percent about housing availability.
Some were concerned that there aren't enough living-wage jobs, while some employers were having a difficult time finding a skilled workforce.
The housing shortage is a statewide issue, Vattimo pointed out. "Madras is not unique in the lack of housing (or affordable housing)."
Access to quality shopping was a sore point for local residents, with 67 percent not happy about the lack of shopping.
"We have a beautiful swimming pool here, but I can't even buy a bathing suit in town," one respondent wrote.
A total of 58 percent of those taking the survey gave high marks to local law enforcement, but had concerns about speeding, highway safety, transient problems and loiterers.
Availability of health care was also viewed favorably, with 64 percent pleased with local services, and 21 percent displeased.
Responding to questions on the downtown area, 70 percent eat in that area, 48 percent shop, 35 percent go downtown for business or government purposes, and 31 percent for "other" reasons.
What do respondents want to see more of? Eighty-three percent want more shopping opportunities, 50 percent want food or eateries, and 39 percent made other suggestions.
Residents also want street fairs (79 percent), live music (71 percent), brew festivals (53 percent), and art walks (50 percent).
Regarding code enforcement, 45 percent were dissatisfied, compared with 29 percent satisfied.
"There are no surprises here, and staff has already been working on ways to mitigate several of these issues," said Vattimo, adding that the city will be working to educate people on who is responsible for issues from eyesores to weeds to more dangerous nuisances, such as abandoned buildings. Code enforcement is usually driven by citizen complaints.
Those satisfied and dissatisfied with roads were almost evenly split, with dissatisfaction taking a slight edge.
"Since many respondents complained about potholes, we used Facebook to encourage citizens to report them to us," said Vattimo.
Asked how they stay informed about city government issues, 80 percent said through the Madras Pioneer; 54 percent said KTVZ/Channel 21; 38 percent said social media sites; and 15 percent said the city website.
For more details about the survey, see the survey results on the city's website at www.ci.madras.or.us/community/page/citizen-input-surveys.