The South Jordan City Council is considering a proposal to hire a consultant for public relations and public-opinion research to gauge residents’ taste for developing or preserving the 67-acre Mulligans Golf and Games complex.
LaVarr Webb, a political consultant and lobbyist, was scheduled Tuesday night to present the council with a plan, including a market-research campaign from Y2 Analytics. Total estimated cost of the contract is $90,000.
"That $90,000 figure is if you purchase all of the proposed services," said city spokesman Chip Dawson. "The City Council really wants to take a look at what services are being offered and what those services will be able to provide and I think they want to have a very in-depth discussion of that."
Dawson said city leaders’ primary interest in exploring the contract is to get "an accurate picture of how residents across the city feel, what their perspectives are on different possibilities for the future of Mulligans. One of the parts of that will be to find out what information people need to help them form an opinion or if there’s misinformation that exists that’s simply incorrect."
A Y2 proposal would include two focus groups and a public-opinion survey conducted online.
That research would gauge "citizen awareness" of the current status of Mulligans, "probe citizens’ interest in preserving the complex" and present "alternative plans and features and gauging citizen response," according to background materials provided to the council. Webb’s part of the contract would include providing public information and community outreach services.
Proposals to develop Mulligans, originally bought by the city from a private owner as open space near the Jordan River, have been controversial with some residents, including a group calling itself Save Mulligans.
Janalee Tobias, a leader of the citizens group, said the city doesn’t need to spend precious tax dollars on a "spin doctor."
"Heck no," she said. "They should not even spend one dime. They don’t need any polls or focus groups — we already know" how residents feel.
Tobias said she has collected "hundreds of signatures" in favor of preserving open space along the river and leaving the golf course in place. She complained that the council already spent $300,000 on a development feasibility study for the area and recently approved a development planning project. Spending money she is sure is intended to steer public opinion in favor of development would "be a waste of taxpayer dollars," she said.
Dawson, though, said city leaders are interested in objective, scientific data.
"There’s misinformation that exists about any large project and [the consulting] group, through polling and through interviewing, would find out what misinformation exists and what information needs to be provided to help address that," he said.
"I think [council members] have an impression of what they’d like to see happen," Dawson added, "but I don’t think they feel they have enough objective data on the perspectives of residents yet to make a fully informed decision."
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