September 7, 1996
"Clean up Perry!" That was the comment most often heard from shoppers who took part in the recent survey of this community conducted by the Perry Main Street organization. The overall appearance of this city is a turnoff to many of those who shop here, and that should concern each one of us. The candid criticisms, commendations and other ideas served up in this survey affect every individual in Perry. They are provided for our information by people who have an interest in this town.
The survey results provide something to think about for all who live in this community and not just those in the retail business. If those merchants go down, we all suffer. But, the respondents did not limit their remarks to just the business district. The appearance of our residential areas came in for a large share of criticism, too.
The survey has been analyzed by a unit of the Oklahoma State University Cooperation Extension Service, and results have been passed along to Betty Warner, executive director of Perry Main Street. A detailed copy of the survey is in Mrs. Warner's office at the Foucart Building, and every resident of Perry should study it carefully.
Although the number of respondents was not large -- 172 survey forms were turned in -- the demographics reveal that a reasonable cross-section of the local populace took part. They offered a pretty clear idea of how people perceive Perry businesses, a few suggestions for improvement, and, finally, some commendations or criticisms. Many details of the survey already have been reported in this newspaper, but I wanted to add a little bit more. That's today's topic.
Respondents were asked to make comments relative to the survey, and many of them spoke frankly. That is exactly what the Main Street group wanted them to do. Cleaning up Perry's business and residential areas is a MAJOR cry rising up from the survey. I counted 22 angry-sounding comments on that topic, and residential areas were mentioned as well as the business district. Here are some examples:
"Old houses need to be torn down. There needs to be some kind of cleanup in Perry." "Please clean up the dilapidated houses." "There are some very nice residential areas, but some are very unsightly. Dilapidated houses and junky areas are on our main approaches into town." "Junk in front of houses, old houses that are abandoned should be torn down." "Do something about the abandoned and junk houses around Perry. There are quite a few." "Get rid of junk cars and trash around homes and yards." "Merchants need to keep their store windows clean, sweep the sidewalks." "Make homeowners clean up their property; trash, old cars and furniture in yards is disgusting, especially if you live in the block." "Everyone should bag their trash and quit throwing it along Sixth street." "Clean up old places with sofas and appliances and junk in yards." "Cut procedure time on complaints filed on trash or dilapidated property." "Business owners are encouraged to improve their property." "Merchants need to keep their store windows clean and sweep the sidewalks." "Demolish some of the old rundown structures. Example: Building by the railroad tracks on Cedar street." There were many more, but you get the idea.
It should be noted that the Perry Development Coalition Cleanup Committee has been trying for two years to encourage local property owners to beautify and clean up around their homes and businesses. It can't be accomplished with just a single "cleanup day" once a year. It's up to each of us to take care of our own. Next to cleaning up the residential and business districts, the thing most often mentioned in the survey was the traffic lights around the square. At the time of the survey, the signals were malfunctioning. They have since been fixed, but the survey revealed how people felt about the problem. Examples: "Fix the stop lights; the flashing is so 'small town'." "Street lights around the square have got to be repaired. Without them working, we look small town. It's a safety risk as well as an appearance issue." "Traffic lights need to be fixed. They need to work all the time, not just part of the time." "I do hope the traffic lights are kept in working order." And so on, in the same vein.
The need for more youth recreational facilities tied with the need for more senior citizen facilities. Interesting. More affordable housing was requested by several, and a large number asked for a movie theater in Perry. Two said Perry has a problem with cliques. And a sizable number complained about the attitude of local clerks. Here are some comments along that line:
"Employees, act like you care when a customer comes in." "Clerks need training in dealing with the public, in person and on the phone. Many are indifferent and/or downright rude. Many lack fundamental knowledge about the products they are selling. Things such as this make shoppers look elsewhere for a friendly attitude." "Sales clerks in Perry have been notorious for being unfriendly." "We need friendlier clerks."
No, all the remarks were not negative. There were many favorable comments about Perry, and some of those should be noted, too. A few of them: "We have so many positive qualities to count as blessings!" "Our square is something to be proud of." "I'm very proud of Perry and I'm sure we have more going for us than any other town in the nation its size." "Overall, Perry is in pretty good shape." "I like Perry very much. We do need some shops but for the most part one can find most things." "Thanks to the Perry Main Street program, Perry is really progressing. "I love living in Perry."
There is so much to this survey that it is just not possible to present a short, comprehensive recap. Shoppers offered many, many helpful criticisms but balanced that with a number of specific reasons about why they do their shopping here. An appropriate response would be immediate action to make improvements where needed to demonstrate that we are serious about keeping them coming back. And it's important to note that they DO shop here in spite of some critical remarks. It seems apparent that the respondents are trying to be constructive and make this a better place in every way. I believe we owe them a debt of gratitude for sharing their feelings about this little city.
For anyone interested, drop by the Perry Main Street office and spend a few minutes looking over the complete results of this survey.