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May 21, 2013

Survey: Town residents cool to merger

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — More than half of Oneonta town residents responding to a survey oppose the idea of a merger with the city of Oneonta, the study summary said.

But a majority said “yes” to a partnership with the city to protect the reservoir and quality of drinking water. Two-thirds oppose drilling for natural gas, according to responses, the survey reported, and a majority supports commercial and industrial development in the town.

Those results, and many more views about life in the town of Oneonta, are captured in the “Looking to the Future: A Survey of Opinions of Town Residents.”

Zogby Analytics of Utica collected surveys in February and March. Of 3,800 circulated, 896 or almost 25 percent were returned, officials said, and the margin of error on results was plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

“Overall, residents were happy to be living in the Town of Oneonta,” the survey conclusion said.

But there was frustration about the assessment process and increasing taxes, concluding remarks said, and concern that the Oneonta Town Board would vote in favor of natural gas drilling and a merger with the city, though the majority of residents opposed those latter two issues.

Town Supervisor Robert Wood said Monday that the town board was pleased with the level of survey response, which provides a valid sampling of opinions.

The town’s Comprehensive Plan Committee, which meets in Town Hall at 7 tonight, will continue weaving results into the update of the municipality’s 1998 plan, Wood said.

Wood said he was surprised that more respondents weren’t opposed to the idea of a town/city merger, which is a proposal likely to be raised again. However, he noted that such a decision lies with town and city residents.

The survey shows that a majority of residents are against natural gas drilling, Wood said, and the town board is considering a referendum in November on drilling.

Town residents favored expanding development for reasons of jobs and other opportunities, the survey summary said, but they noted a need to protect the environment. According to results, 70 percent respondents said commercial development within the town should be expanded, and 59 percent said industrial development should be expanded.

This year’s survey was an update of one conducted by the town in 1997. The Oneonta Town Board set aside $25,000 for this year’s study.

According to the executive summary, other survey highlights were:

• Regarding services, town residents were most satisfied, at 85 percent, with fire protection; snow removal, 84 percent; law enforcement, 72 percent; drinking water quality, 71 percent; and road maintenance services, 68 percent.

• Less than half of those surveyed, 49 percent, were satisfied with environmental protection, or the availability of affordable housing, 40 percent.

• When asked about which recreation resource they would like to see expanded, 73 percent said walking paths, 67 percent said bike trails and 56 percent said cross country trails.

Survey results are available through a link on the Town of Oneonta website at www.townofoneonta.org.