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The Oldham Era plans Q&A online

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By Laura Hagan

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Last week the survey process began. 

More than 1,000 Oldham County households received a mailer and phone call encouraging them to take part in a survey of public opinion on the subject of a proposed general aviation airport.

A committee, consisting of two members of the Oldham County Airport Board, two representatives from lobbyist group No Oldham Airport and Magistrate Steve Greenwell created the survey with consultants from Kansas-based ETC Institute. 

After two drafts and several revisions, the final product is now in the hands of county residents.

The survey is the result of months of meetings, drafts and revisions. But there’s one question eliminated from a draft of the survey that still has people talking. 

The question included a listing of county services and asked  residents to rank services in order of importance.

And it’s a question The Oldham Era would like readers to answer, and we’re collecting results on our Web site. 

Where do county services rank in importance with the county’s residents? The question – titled “Oldham County Municipal Priorities” – is posted on OldhamEra.com and The Oldham Era invites residents to log on and give their opinions. 

The question isn’t part of the airport board’s survey, nor will it be included with the survey results from the ETC Institute. 

The Oldham Era’s question will be posted on the site through midnight Jan. 28. 

After that the results will be tallied and will appear online and in the Feb. 5 edition of The Oldham Era.

There somewhat of a dispute about why the question is omitted from the official survey. 

Emily Liu, assistant director of Planning and Zoning, told the board she sought feedback about the question from Judge-Executive Duane Murner. 

Since it covered county services, she said she asked if Murner thought members of the fiscal court – who will ultimately decide whether or not to bring an airport to the county – would find the question useful. Liu said she didn’t show Murner the survey. 

Murner said when Liu approached him about the question focused on county services, he thought it would make the survey too long and would discourage people from filling it out. 

He said if fiscal court wants to find out what residents think of the importance of those services, they’ll make up their own questionnaire for that purpose, but he said it shouldn’t “tag along as an afterthought.”

“I don’t really care what happens with an airport,” Murner said, “I just care that we get hard, un-biased data, which has been absent.”

Liu echoed Murner’s concern about the survey’s length.

“I wanted it to be shorter and quicker so people would take the time to fill it out,” she said.

Ed Boles, one of the two NOA representatives on the committee, said an airport will require tax dollars and since there are other services that do as well, it would be important to think about.

“That either means a raise in taxes or a cut somewhere else,” he said.

The question will show where an airport stands among public opinion in relation to those other items, he said, adding that it’s important for magistrates to know how the constituency thinks.

Bob Sargis, the committee chair and an airport board member, said he originally felt comfortable with the question but when he heard other perspectives, he felt it “broadened the scope of the survey,” when it should be specifically about the airport. He said the airport requires a one-time investment, while other items included on the table are county budget issues.

“I’m not an advocate for or against (an airport),” Sargis said. “I just want good judgment and well-thought-out decision making in the local government.”

He compared the table’s relationship to the survey to an architect asking how someone wants their house laid out, then changing the subject to how someone thinks the house would fit in with other architecture in the community.

Sargis said he thinks the survey is a good opportunity to get more people involved and find out how the proposed airport is perceived throughout the county. He also said working with NOA has been beneficial in the process.

Alex Babey, the other airport board representative, could not be reached for comment.

Jim Pearson, also representing NOA, said magistrates could use results to gauge residents’ opinions about services. 

“We all realize, (you) can’t do everything,” he said. “It’s important to see where the county feels we could put limited dollars.”

He said he thinks the final survey is as “good as could be expected” and said he doesn’t think the issue should have been taken to Murner – whose influence, he said, changed the dynamics of the group. 

He doesn’t agree with Liu’s comments that the table causes the survey to be long and complicated.

“We have a highly intelligent county, well-educated and sophisticated,” he said. “This was not rocket science.”

Magistrate Steve Greenwell attended a meeting as a fiscal court representative. He said the committee’s analysis was that the survey was about an airport, not other needs of fiscal court and he agreed.

“I did not feel comfortable using airport money to find out what the fiscal court needs,” he said. “I just really did feel that this was about the airport and (we) needed to find out (whether it’s) a yes-or-no situation in residents’ minds.”

Liu said the final group of surveys were mailed Saturday. Now through Jan. 29, interviewers in ETC Institute’s call center will contact households that received the survey in the mail. 

Residents that have not completed the survey will be given the option of completing the survey by phone. 

If they do not want to complete the survey by phone, they will be encouraged to complete the survey in the next few days and return their completed survey by mail. 

They will continue with the calls until 400 surveys have been completed, which they hope to be no later than Jan. 31.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com