A recent resident survey - in which 63 percent of Fruit Heights residents said they did not want to be annexed into neighboring Kaysville or Farmington - was flawed, according to some citizens and a city councilman.
The survey was not conducted scientifically and it was biased by a letter Mayor Blaine Nelson sent to residents before the survey, said Frank Leaver, a Fruit Heights resident."There has never been a legitimate study on whether Fruit Heights should be annexed or not," Leaver said. "This survey certainly didn't do it."
Though the University of Utah Survey Research Center helped with the questionnaire, the center did not conduct the survey, said Lois Haggard, center director.
Data collection was assigned by the city to Shauna Jones, a Fruit Heights teen who took on the survey, under the supervision of City Administrator Belva Provost, as a service project in the Miss Kaysville/Fruit Heights competition, which she won.
Jones - whose father, Kent Jones, is a consulting engineer for Fruit Heights - organized 65 volunteers who distributed questionnaires to all (about 960) households on Sept. 12. The volunteers returned to the homes later in the evening and gathered 628 questionnaires, which were turned over to a Salt Lake statistics firm for tabulation.
The 65-question survey dealt with everything from a proposed 4-H Horse Club to the adequacy of snow removal.
Only two questions, toward the end of the survey, addressed the annexation issue.
One asked residents what they thought would happen to services and taxes if Fruit Heights were annexed into another municipality. Fifty-four percent said they believed taxes would increase, while 41 percent said they believed services would decrease.
The other question asked which city would be the best to annex to. Sixty-three percent of the respondents said they would like the city to remain Fruit Heights; seven percent said Farmington; and 26 percent wanted Kaysville.
City Councilman Dave Garrett said he has no doubts about the accuracy of the survey's figures, but believes the answers to some of the questions may have been biased by the wording of the survey and by the letter Nelson mailed out a day or two before the survey.
In that letter, Nelson argued against annexation into Kaysville, citing possible negative results, such as higher taxes, and reduced services, property values and political representation.
"Experience tells us that smaller governments generally meet the needs of those they serve much better than do larger, more bureaucratic governments," the mayor wrote. "Our city is worth keeping."
Said Garrett, "I'm of the opinion that the survey was, in fact, biased. And the mayor's letter biased the survey. I don't feel we have a true feeling of what the citizens' feelings are."
Garrett and Leaver told the Deseret News that most of the points the mayor made in his letter are arguable or based on misinformation.
For example, the mayor said Kaysville is not interested in annexing Fruit Heights. But Kaysville Mayor Brit Howard, who was going to come to a public meeting to speak against annexation, backed out at the last minute after learning two members of the Kaysville City Council might be interested in acquiring Fruit Heights, Leaver said.
Haggard said she was unaware of the mayor's letter, which she said could have biased the survey.
"If I were a decisionmaker and had to make a decision (about annexation) relying on these data, I couldn't do it," Haggard said.