Snoqualmie approves citizen survey to get opinions on YMCA expansion project

A survey will be conducted to collect opinions on the community center expansion project.

The Snoqualmie City Council debated the validity of surveys following feedback for the potential expansion of a community center.

The council was discussing the community center at Snoqualmie Ridge on June 24.

The city of Snoqualmie has proposed a $12.5 million expansion for the YMCA on the Ridge. The city owns the building and proposed the project to meet a growing need in the Valley foraquatics-based recreation.

The city council approved a memorandum of understand for the firm EMC Research to conduct a survey of citizens featuring several questions regarding the possible community center aquatics facility. The scope of the project will cover 300, 12-minute interviews with a random sample of registered voters in the city. the cost to the city for the survey is $23,200.

The public comment at the meeting was uniformly against the survey. Concerns centered around the total sample size of 300 citizens being too small, the possibility of bias influencing the list of citizens to interview and the quality of the questions.

In discussion, councilmembers Sean Sundwall and Matt Laase also voiced concern regarding the sample size. Laase said he was against the proposal and suggested putting the community center expansion project to registered voters (about 2,000 people) in the general election.

“To put the project on the ballot this November is approximately the same cost to do this survey,” Laase added.

Councilmember Katherine Ross asked what the justification for interviewing only 300 people was. In response, Councilmember Jim Mayhew said EMC research is a data analytics firm that has worked with the city in the past, and the company decided on a 300-person sample because it produces a 95-percent confidence level with a plus or minus 5-percent margin of error.

City administrator Bob Larson also vouched for the validity of EMC Research’s methods, and noted the city has worked with the company twice in previous years.

Sundwall added that the survey itself is not a decision, and it is not the only factor the ultimate decision will be based on. The survey also does not preclude the option of bringing the project forward to a vote.

Fire chief Mark Correira said EMC Research will design the questions so they are statistically valid. EMC will also not let the city influence the formation or design of the questions.

Councilmember Peggy Shepard was not supportive of the study and cited her experience working at Microsoft in market research where she claimed expensive studies produced questionable results.

The memorandum of understanding for the survey was approved in a 3-2 vote with councilmembers Laase and Shepard dissenting. Councilmembers Bob Jeans and Bryan Holloway were not in attendance.

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