Local News

AP council tweaks proposed polling system

AVON PARK - Citizens will soon be able to weigh in on issues from their computer or Smartphone with the city council moving forward on a web-based polling system for the city's web site. Originally, to increase citizen input, Councilman Parke Sutherland suggested contracting with a survey company to periodically poll citizens on city issues. The council liked the idea, but not the $10,000 cost for a professional conducted survey. At a November council meeting, Mayor Sharon Schuler said on some issues council only hears from a few people who have complaints, more input is needed from residents so council knows what the whole city wants. She asked if there was something the city could do on its own, concerning citizen input, without hiring a company.
Councilman Garrett Anderson suggested the city look into creating a web-site based poll available to the public for input and comments. At its meeting on Monday, council discussed a $450 proposal to set up a web-based polling system from Kyle Lynn of Sebring Computers. Lynn's proposal noted that the number of votes allowed per address can be adjusted, anonymous votes can be counted separately and can be separated in reporting and the poll results can be available in either a public view or private password-protected area. Anderson said there was no need to allow anonymous votes because council doesn't really care what an anonymous person has to say, council wants to know what citizens of Avon Park have to say. "If you want to say something I think you need to step up and put your name on it for the world to see," he said. Mayor Sharon Schuler agreed. "If people don't have the [guts] to put their name on it I don't want to hear from them," she said. Anderson asked if items on the council's agenda could be on the web poll. Lynn said, "Of course." Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray asked if council would be obligated to vote based on the results of the poll? Anderson responded, "no, no, no ... ." Council decided to allow one vote per household and agreed not to post poll results on the city's website, noting that the results are public record. City Attorney Gerald Buhr offered a word of caution to council. "Just bear in mind this will eventually be used to beat you over the head," he said. Schuler commented, "There has not been anything in the city in the last fours or five years that I know of that somebody out there has tried to beat everything we have done over our heads." Gray added, "But, this way they will have 'meat.' Before, in my opinion, they just had 'say so.'" Lynn said council would have some leeway in interpreting the results because he did not expect every household would respond to a particular poll question, while the people who are more adamant about an issue are more likely to respond. Sutherland said the volume of responses the city receives will indicate whether council is hearing from the vocal minority or a larger segment of the citizenry. Lynn will set up a web-based polling system for council's review prior to going live on the city's web site. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826