LARGO — Compared to other places in Pinellas County, Largo is an affordable place in which to settle down, raise kids and retire. It's relatively safe and secure, and the parks sure are nice.
Largo, though, is seriously lacking in decent job opportunities. And it's too bad the library is closed on Sundays. Also, the traffic is a pain, and the traffic lights could definitely be timed better.
This is what residents are telling city officials, loud and clear, according to a recent survey. The results are detailed at largo.com/values.
Six hundred sixty Largo residents voiced their views in a monthlong online survey this spring and at three public workshops. The survey's participants can't be considered a statistically valid sample of Largo residents, but they can be characterized as a sample of folks who are likely to care about issues affecting the city.
Amy Davis, the city's budget manager, said surveying the public can guide officials as they make long-term policy decisions.
The biggest gripe from survey respondents: traffic. The current state of Ulmerton Road might have something to do with that.
"The ease in getting around Largo is a huge issue and very much on the mind of everyone that lives in Largo, works in Largo or travels through," said city management analyst Allison Broihier. "It's mainly traffic congestion and construction."
The city asked: What is Largo's biggest public safety challenge?
A whopping 220 people chose the answer "transportation," far outpacing crime (63 votes), drugs (38 votes), police staffing levels (33) and gangs (10).
The city asked: What would improve driving conditions in Largo?
Ninety-four percent of respondents said better timing of traffic signals would help — an answer far more popular than other options like light rail or a better bus system.
A bit more than half of them thought more sidewalks and trails would encourage them to walk or bike instead of driving. The rest won't be getting out of their cars for any reason.
Forty-six percent would use a light-rail system if it was available in Pinellas County, and 55 percent thought they'd use it if they live or work near a rail station.
So who responded to the city's survey?
Slightly more than half were between the ages of 50 and 70. Three-fourths didn't have children at home. The vast majority were permanent residents. Nearly 40 percent had lived in Largo for 20 years or more. Two-thirds didn't work in Largo.
When asked why they chose to live in Largo, the most popular answer was "affordability." Second most popular: "Access to the Tampa Bay region." Least popular answer: the schools.
"It's good to know that people think we're affordable," said Largo Mayor Pat Gerard. "But I think that also says they think they're getting value for their tax dollars and that we're spending it in the right places — at least I'm hoping that's what it means."
When asked which city service reductions have most affected them, more people chose "library hours" than any other option. "Parks and recreation" was next, followed by police staffing levels.
This subject might come up in the City Commission's budget deliberations this summer. In 2011, the Largo Public Library stopped staying open on Sundays.
More survey results:
• More than 70 percent felt Largo was safe and secure.
• Less than half thought it was a good place to start a business.
• Slightly more than half used curbside recycling.
• The vast majority would like the city to communicate with them by email rather than by phone, mail or social media.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.