More information on the City survey results.

This past summer a little over 500 surveys were sent to Sleepy Eye property owners. There were about 200 surveys returned with good feedback about our community. People who do surveys tell us that a 40 percent return is really pretty good. We’re thankful for all those that took time to respond.

So what did we learn? The biggest concern voiced in the survey dealt with the appearance of Main Street and general blight around the city About 100 people rated the appearance of the city as “fair” or “poor” and most of that concern appeared to deal with Main Street. The survey produced 125 added comments and 28 of those dealt with Main Street and the image problem it creates for the City as a whole.

Right behind Main Street were the blight problems around town. You can see why the City Council made blight a big priority and recently passed an ordinance that will put some clout into the policy. After the first of the year, a blight inspector will likely be hired and there will be “follow through” on the ordinance and stiffer penalties for violators.

Unfortunately, improving Main Street is not going to be easy. Upgrades cost money and some property owners simply do not see a return likely on their investment in their buildings. The changed nature of retail makes these small shops, that once were so viable, an outdated mode of doing business. The EDA is working to find answers, but every indication suggests that the City may have to step up financially to aid any improvement.

A lack of housing showed up as a real need in the community. Any entrepreneurs should jump in and fill some of that need because there’s opportunity there.

There were a lot of bright spots in the survey. Our hospital and medical center are very well thought of, and the police, fire department and ambulance service all received a significant number of positive comments. The parks and trails and library also received high marks. And actually, every other aspect of the survey was really pretty good, except for those pointed out above. And yes, there were random problems mentioned. There certainly is room for improvement. But frequently when one survey raised a potential negative, the next survey saw that same situation in a positive light.

Several people mentioned missing the signal light at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. Remember that it was not the City that removed the light, but instead the Minnesota Department of Transportation. MnDOT mentioned lack of traffic volume at that intersection as the main reason for its removal, but an approximate replacement cost of over $150,000 probably contributed as well.

Otherwise, there were a variety of comments giving opinions about a variety of facets. Most importantly, be assured that every comment was read by every City Council member, the City Manager and the Mayor. Also, be assured that each of your comments have been and will be given serious consideration.

Plans are in place to survey another randomly selected third of the property owners next summer, with the final third slated to receive the survey in 2019.

On another note, discussion and negotiations continue with potential businesses and industry interested in locating in the community. The Snow farm land gives the City true negotiating ability, and business and industry are taking note.