Findings: Useful findings became evident early in the project, during the focus groups. Comments from the 27 participants suggested that:
Users of SDLTAP's services are generally satisfied with their quality. Predominantly positive opinions were expressed on SDLTAP's:
Staff competency,friendliness and helpfulness
Newsletter (The Connection)
Awareness and use of SDLTAP varies by type of agency. Focus group participants from federal, county, city and state agencies were most familiar with SDLTAP's services and had taken most advantage of them in the past, Township officials and contractors' staff were generally less familiar.
In spite of differences between organizations, most face common challenges, including:
Although the three focus groups differed in their estimates of current funding for SDLTAP, thry agreed closedly on the relative importance of its functions. Typically, participants said they would allocate the following fractions of a hypothetical budget to:
Formal workshops, 30%
On-site visits, 30%
Technical assistance, 20%
Newsletter publication, 10%
Interviews with SDLTAP staff revealed a good understanding of clients' needs. Staff at SDSU (Ken Skorseth, Lorna Foster, and Sue Grant) and at the SDSM&T (Mary Espeland) demonstrated their commitment to helping local agencies and other clients meet their technical and administrative challenges. They also expressed their belief that other clients, particularly in the contacting industry, could benefit from additional outreach. Pat Collins, formerly of the SDDOT's training activity and now (following reorganization with the BOP, provided valuable advice on the mailed survey instrument.
Findings of the mailed survey confirmed many of the perceptions expressed in the focus groups and staff interviews:
As had been suggested in the focus groups, the survey showed that county, city and state personnel are most familiar with SDLTAP services and have used them most in the past. Federal and tribal officials are also quite aware, but the relatively small number of responses from these groups weakens this finding somewhat. Consultants, township officials and contractors appear to be least familiar with the services, and to some extent are unsure whether the services are appropriate to their needs.
Respondents expressed predomiantly favoralbe opinions of SDLTAP's present services. For every service offered, favorable responses greatly outweighed unfavorable, suggesting that the quality of servece generally meets clients' needs.
Survey responses suggested that training needs vary somewhat by opganization and by respondents' positions within their organizations, but many training needs are common to all agencies within the state, Overall, the top twenty training needs identified from analysis of all returned surveys are:
Blading techniques Erosion contol
Blade operation Ditch and drainage maintenance
Snow plow operation Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
Culvert installation Work zone safety
Traffic signs Proper lifting and carrying
Weed and vegetation control Ditching tecniques
First aid Budget preparation and accounting
(Gravel) material properties and tests Rural plowing and sanding
Legal issues First responder
Culvert design Motor grader operation
Survey respondents did not suggest radical changes to SDLTAP's activities. Responses to questions regarding SDLTAP's potential role suggested that some opportunity exists to use computer communication (via E-mail or Internet) to communicate with local agencies and to provide general computer assistance to local agencies. A few respondents said they were interested in contributing articles to the newsletter, and a majority said they would use a catalog describing SDLTAP's services.
In regard to worksho0p length and location, over 60% of respondents said they prefer workshops of one day duration or less, and 56% said travel distances over 100 miles of travel are unacceptable.