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Among city residents’ top priorities are strong fire and police services, city parks and well-maintained streets and sidewalks, according to a city-run survey conducted this month.   

Overall, residents had good things to say about the city’s police, fire, water and garbage services, but took issue with the condition of Napa’s streets and sidewalks. 

The city rolled out its so-called “Napa Community Climate Survey” online from Jan. 4 to 18. The idea was to get a “recent snapshot of community input” to help shape discussion at the Napa City Council’s annual priority-setting retreat scheduled for Friday, according to Napa Mayor Jill Techel. The city received 397 valid responses from residents weighing in on issues ranging from access to core and recreational services to city planning and zoning decisions.

When it comes to city-run services, 93 percent of respondents gave Napa’s Fire Department a rating of “excellent” or “good,” according to survey results. No city department received higher marks in that section of the survey. 

Napa Fire Chief Tim Borman said he attributes some of that to the nature of first responders’ work. Fire personnel respond in emergency situations, when Napans are most vulnerable and perhaps most appreciative of help, he said. 

“Great customer service is really a high priority for all of us as city employees,” Borman said. “I think the thing that’s unique about the fire department is the type of experiences we have with people. We deal with people in their darkest moment.”   

On the flip side, 91 percent of polled residents rated the overall quality of Napa’s streets as “fair” or “poor,” according to survey results. Of respondents who took a stance on a related question, 189 people indicated Napa’s streets are in worse shape now than they were three years ago, but 146 said city roads’ conditions are improving. 

Public Works Director Jacques LaRochelle said the low overall score for city streets didn’t surprise him, but data reflecting comparisons of Napa’s streets today with those of yesteryear did. 

“Considering the fact that we’ve probably done more with roads in the last two years than probably the last 20, that is surprising,” he said, adding that the city still has a long way to go to improve its roads.  

The city has paved more than 17 miles of city streets and roads over the past 18 months, according to City Manager Mike Parness. In line with the city’s street maintenance program, Public Works crews are poised to complete paving more than half of Napa’s streets over about the next six years, he said. The city aims to pave 10 miles’ worth of Napa roads each year during the same time frame, with additional miles being contracted out. The undertaking began in the summer of 2009, in the Bel Aire neighborhood. 

Approval ratings were high for the city’s water and recycling and garbage services, with 84 percent of respondents giving each a rating of “excellent” or “good,” survey results said. Eighty percent gave Napa Police services favorable ratings. 

While pleased that several core services received ratings of “good” or better,  Techel said in an e-mail that she expected better marks for Napa streets on the heels of recent improvements. However, she said, the feedback indicates that streets are “an important issue for the community and one that Napans are concerned with and that the council needs to continue to work on.” 

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In addition to rating local services, respondents were asked to answer questions about the quality of life in Napa and rate how safe they feel at home. 

Survey results showed that about 58 percent of polled residents do not believe the city is safer overall now than it was three years ago. Also, 55 percent said Napa’s overall quality of life is not as good as it was three years ago, according to survey results. 

However, when asked to rate their own neighborhoods, about 97 percent of polled Napans said they feel safe during the daytime where they live, and 90 percent said they were happy with the overall quality of life in their neighborhood. 

Survey input came from 12 Napa neighborhoods. Most participants said they live in central Napa, followed by Browns Valley, coupled with the Linda Vista/northwest Napa area. 

“I am pleased that we had a good response and all geographic areas of the community were represented,” Techel said. “This is a tool we haven’t used before and one that we will be using again to get community input.”

Techel said to the best of her knowledge, the online study in January was the first of its kind for the city.


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