Chaska residents are split over whether to move the Chaska City Council from a ward system to an at-large council, according to a survey.
Since Chaska was founded, councilors have represented certain areas, or “wards,” of the city and are elected by residents of those wards.
Under a new proposal, Chaska’s four council seats would serve at-large, elected by the entire city. Currently, only the mayor is elected at-large.
About 35 percent of residents favored the change, 30 opposed changing and 35 percent were unsure and needed more information, according to a presentation to the council Sept. 10 by Peter Leatherman of The Morris Leatherman Company, who conducted the survey. The city commissions a survey of its residents every few years.
“That chart is a pollster’s nightmare. It gives you no direction, a third, a third, a third,” Leatherman said, adding that more discussion would have to take place so people would understand the pros and the cons of an at-large system.
The company also asked participants if they would support the mayor’s term to be four years, currently the mayor is elected every two years.
The results indicated 56 percent were in favor of the change, 27 percent were opposed and 17 percent were unsure.
“It hasn’t really changed overtime (compared to results from 2012), there’s still a majority support for changing the mayor’s term,” Leatherman said.
The council discussed changing to an at-large system at a December work session. If approved, the plan would be implemented in 2022.
If the council proceeds toward an at-large system, in 2022 every council seat would be up for election, including the mayor, who is elected every two years.
Two councilors would serve two-year terms and the other two would serve full four-year terms, to continue staggering two elected council seats every two years, said City Administrator Matt Podhradsky, at the work session.
Mayor Mark Windschitl asked Leatherman to explain how participants are chosen, adding that he had never met anyone who had been surveyed.
Leatherman explained the company randomly selected 400 residents through their landline and cell phone numbers. The average time for a call was 33 minutes.
The city commissioned the Leatherman Morris Company for $28,000 to perform the survey, according to Podhradsky. The last time the survey was conducted was 2012, 2005 and 2000.
The survey also asked participants if they would support organized garbage hauling. About 50 percent said they would favor it. About a third said they would oppose organized garbage collection, and about 15 percent said they were unsure.
When respondents were asked to rate the importance of choosing a hauler, about half of respondents said it was “not too important” or “not at all important,” while 26 percent said it was “somewhat important” and 22 percent said it was very important. About 5 percent said they were unsure.
People would be more willing to support organized garbage hauling if it’s their neighbors who would be switching over, simply because they may have personal relationships with workers, Leatherman said.
Most of the respondents of the survey said they believed Chaska was headed in the right direction.
When the survey asked what people liked most about the city, about 20 percent of participants indicated they liked its small town feel, 17 percent said they liked the friendly people, and the “quiet and peaceful,” “open space/nature” and safe categories each received about 10 percent of answers.
When the survey asked residents about their perception of the community, 48 percent said they believed it felt like a small town, 27 percent said Chaska was a suburban community 24 percent said both.
“The expectations of a small town have not been lost, as growth is continuing to occur,” Leatherman said.
The council thanked Leatherman for his time.
“There was a ton of information that quite frankly said a lot,” said Councilor Chris Schulz.
The survey is helpful for city staff because it helps guide general objectives, Podhradsky said.
“It’s to understand what people’s perceptions are and where we need to be improved and what we think needs to be focused on,” Podhradsky said.