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Community survey results both substantiate and surprise

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image Lyn Reitz, CA president Ed Barnes and consultant Dr. Erika Matulich discuss the survey results. Photo Melody Jameson

Results of an impartial, comprehensive community-wide survey were disclosed during a SCC town hall meeting.

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER – A good many residents in this retirement center once touted as a shining example of volunteerism at work do not, in fact, volunteer their time and talents.

A majority of retirees here are technologically tuned in to some degree.

A master plan for future major improvements is a top priority.

The next new amenity should be a campus café.

Several options for funding big-ticket capital improvements should be tapped before any bank loan is considered.

The community’s largest age group is the 70 somethings.

These are but a few of the findings reported last week when results of an impartial, comprehensive community-wide survey were disclosed during a town hall meeting.

Some of them are consistent with previous endeavors to survey resident positions on issues. Preference for a café or central gathering place with food and beverage availability, for example, has shown up whenever efforts to take the community’s pulse have been undertaken in the recent past.

And community resistance to incurring debt owed a commercial lender in order to underwrite new construction came through loud and clear the last time such a proposition was put to a community vote.

Other results, however, such as the extent of declining volunteerism may have surprised some in a community that for years has promoted the amount of tax dollars it ostensibly saves Hillsborough County through services rendered by volunteering residents that otherwise might have to be funded through tax revenues.

Whether new or old, the findings now are in the hands of a “blue ribbon” panel charged with careful evaluation and recommendation for implementations.

The survey, distributed to a total of 11,002 SCC Community Association members including residents in Aston Gardens and The Courtyards, was returned by more than 5,000 of them, Dr. Erika Matulich told a crowd ofsome 500 assembled in Community Hall Thursday evening to learn results. Matulich, a University of Tampa professor and business consultant commissioned to conduct the entirely confidential survey, called the 42.9 percent return rate “unprecedented.”

The exceptionally high return, she added, provided a “very, very valid” statistical basis, reflecting the community as a whole.

With the help of a power point program shown on overhead projectors, Matulich took her rapt audience through the several segments of the survey, highlighting specifics in each.

Most Sun City Center citizens, for instance, are year around dwellers, with 69 percent of the survey respondents noting they live here 12 months each year.Other demographic details they disclosed include that more than 60 percent of them have had at least some college coursework and that 40 percent are 70 to 79 years old.Nearly 28 percent are in the 60 to 69 age bracket and slightly over 23 percent are in their 80s.The average age is 70.85 years.

As for volunteering, Matulich noted that in SCC the rate is lower than in similar communities. Fifty percent of the respondents said they do not volunteer in any capacity at any time and 23.47 percent stated they contribute no more than four hours each month.Just 11 percent give 20 hours or more on a monthly basis.

On the other hand, SCC residents eat out a lot: 36 percent dining out up to nine times each month and another 21 percent frequenting restaurants up to 19 times per month.

And where do the retirees get most of their information on community issues?Respondents listed the SCC CA monthly newsletter as their top source, with the eNews managed by John Bowker and local newspapers close behind.Town hall and SCC CA board meetings ranked near the bottom.

Residents may not be fans of meetings, but they are electronically in touch. Almost 4,000 of the respondents said they use desk top computers, laptops and tablets, with most of their owners internet connected.

Not surprisingly, respondents voiced preference for a routinely provided digest of CA board actions distributed via email or a weekly CA newsletter.

The most popular and heavily used amenities in the community are the Atrium facilities, library, fitness center, Community Hall, Rollins Theater and the pools.Residents’ most used services include the Nearly New retail outlet, CA offices, Emergency Squad, Security Patrol and visitors’ information center, they said.

And when it comes to major improvements on the CA campuses, respondents first and foremost want a Master Plan drafted, detailing future projects. They listed their top outdoor improvement as creation of trails for walking, hiking or biking through CA property within the community.And, their most desired indoor improvement is the campus café, which drew the heaviest applause of the evening when mentioned.

A top 10 listing of all potential improvements also included expansion of the Rollins Theater, more parking provisions, environmentally friendly campuses and a farmers’ market.

As for funding improvements, respondents strongly suggested charging non-CA members for use of amenities, club membership, etc., and/or establishing an endowment fund for the specific purpose and/or issuing fixed-rate, tax-free community bonds.The least acceptable means of funding, respondents said, are dues increases and financial institution loans.

Yet, SCC citizens remain essentially satisfied with their community, comfortable with how their funds are being spent, at ease with their living choices and more than willing to recommend the retirement center to others.

Unlike many community meetings, few questions were posed following Matulich’s presentation.

This week, Ed Barnes, CA president, called the Matulich survey “a good investment” providing insights into “lots of issues”plus pointing the way for operation of the association in the future.

To capitalize on the survey findings, Barnes said a nine –member “blue ribbon panel” has been formed with Bob Deutel named its chairman. The panel is totally independent of the CA board, composed of men and women as well as of residents on both side of S.R. 674, he added.

Their report, based on evaluation of the survey results from a planning perspective and due by December 15, Barnes indicated, is expected to become the foundation of the master plan encompassing short term, mid range and long term goals.

The full survey results can be accessed on the community website and in the community library.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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