By Jonthan Copsey; Appen Newspapers
July 14, 2010 MILTON -
The Milton Parks and Recreation Needs assessment Survey results were released several weeks ago with great fanfare by the city – now they have a clear road map of what the residents of the city want from their government in terms of recreation facilities and programs. Unfortunately, the results raised two important questions: why did equestrian programs end up in the bottom of the list of requested programs and also why did some horse farm owners not receive the survey?
The city mailed over 11,000 survey forms to residents asking them to list what programs and facilities they want and what they don't. Of particular surprise to some, including resident Marsha Spear, was that equestrian programs fell in the bottom ten, receiving support from just less than a quarter of respondents.
"I would have thought equestrian events would have been more popular given the number of horse farms in Milton," said Spear.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Cyndee Bonacci, she was also surprised by the number, however, for different reasons.
"I figured the number would be lower," she said. "If you look at the entire population, a very, very small minority actually owns horses."
"Even though people in Milton may not own horses, they like to see horses, they like the community feeling of having the horse farms here," Bonacci added.
It turns out that the "very small minority" may have been accidentally left off the mailing list for the surveys, such as one horse farm owner who wished to remain anonymous. According to her, she was left off the mailing list and had to specifically ask for a survey from the city.
Bonacci said the city used Fulton County data from 2009 to compile their mailing list of all residents in the city. Properties owned by businesses – such as banks – were excluded.
What she and her staff did not know was that almost 100 residential properties were not included in that list because they had a special "V" tax designation – "conservation easements."
"After we did the initial mailing we found out there was something called the 'V' classification," explained Bonacci.
When she and her staff realized the oversight, they sent out a second mailing to all properties using this special designation.
According to Lynn Tully, the city community development director, such a designation is often given to rural properties in order to freeze their taxes for several years.
"This is typically used by rural or agriculture properties," Tulley said. And apparently horse farms as well, with many of the farms being left from the initial survey mailing. As soon as Bonacci and her staff found out about the oversight, they pulled the county data on the conservation properties and sent a second mailing of the survey as well as pushed the due date back by several weeks.
In the end, they were accepting surveys until the last minute."We were taking filled-out forms until the week before [the survey results] were due," Bonacci said."To my knowledge we included everybody that we had property information on that were residents," she said. "We tried as best we could to make sure everybody got a survey."