A public poll with private results | VailDaily.com

A public poll with private results

Melanie Wong
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” The public may never see the results of a recent county survey that gauged 405 residents on whether they would support a justice center expansion bond tax.

The survey was done for Eagle County and paid for by RBC Marketing, Inc, a Denver-based bond company, but since the privately owned company funded the $10,000 survey, the results do not have to be released, said RBC director Dan O’Connell.

The survey asked if residents would support an increase in sales tax to fund a $25 to $50 million bond for expanding the county’s jail, sheriff’s office, courts and district attorney’s office.

The company did the survey and advised county officials that there was not enough support for a bond issue, but did not release other results or specific numbers.

The company will not release the full results because it contained questions about specific people and could hurt the chance of getting the bond passed, O’Connell said.

“We’re trying to accomplish a goal, which is to get the bond passed and educate the public about this need,” he said. “If there was an election, someone anti-tax could use the info to start a no-campaign.”

The survey also included questions about if residents thought the county was going in a good direction. It also asked specific questions about whether residents trusted certain county officials with their money and if there was a campaign, who should promote it, said County Commissioner Sara Fisher.

Even the Board of Commissioners never saw the actual survey results, but were given a summary in executive session, commissioners said. Executive session is closed to the public.

“We all agreed that specific questions about individuals wasn’t valuable knowledge to the board,” Fisher said.

County Commissioner Arn Menconi said the survey was dealt with on a staff level through the county manager’s office. It was better that all the information was not released because bond issues are sensitive topics and the information could have been misused.

“We just got a snapshot, an interpretation of some of the results,” he said.

County officials said the survey was not conducted by the county itself in an effort to get a broad-based, nonpersonal perspective.

“We left it up to the experts because we felt we didn’t want to take the chances of skewing the way questions were asked, or making the survey personal and not issue-based,” Fisher said.

Of the results, the board was only given a few specific numbers and percentages of yes or no responses, she said.

But the public will not even get that, according to survey conductors.

“If a county or city pays for it, then it is public knowledge, but if we pay for it, it’s for us to use as a tool,” O’Connell said.

Gypsum resident Marty Lich said she participated in the phone survey and would like to see the results.

“I like to have facts, and I would think we could see the results,” she said.

She said the survey asked if she was aware about jail overcrowding and conditions. Then she was asked about how she felt about the specific county commissioners except for Arn Menconi, she said.

“I thought that was really weird, and I kept waiting for them to ask me about it,” she said.

Otherwise, she said, the survey was professional and neutral.

“I think what they were hunting for was if there were satisfied taxpayers, if people thought they were getting their money’s worth from county officials,” she said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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