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Officials gear up for Census
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Kathy Poole, the county’s new Census coordinator, works at her desk. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and Liberty County officials want to impress upon federal regulator how important Census 2010 is to Liberty County.
“You get one shot every 10 years,” said Kathy Poole, the county’s new Census coordinator.
From Title I programs and Women, Infants and Children to roads and public transportation, Poole said she was amazed to see how much program funding rides on the nationwide headcount.
“The government disperses that on where the people are,” Poole said of some $300 billion in federal allocations.
Georgia is also on tap to pick up another seat in the House, based on 2010 census predictions.
Since taking the reins earlier this month, Poole has introduced herself to city and county leaders, recruited partnerships and started networking for the Complete Count Committee, a volunteer group that aims to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to census questionaires.
“It will include a cross-reference of faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, media, representatives from the hard-to-reach areas,” Poole said. “Really, anyone … who has some ideas on how to reach out … can work with the committee.”
“Just like an octopus with tentacles, the committee will help guide us and reach everybody,” added Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel.
Poole’s biggest challenge is easing the concerns of leery residents who have misconceptions about their personal information being compromised.
A breach in confidentiality is punishable by fines and jail time. Even other government agencies aren’t privy to Census information.
“They don’t share it with Immigration. They do not share it with the FBI or anyone else,” Poole said.
Counting immigrants, transitional military and the homeless also present a challenge.
This year, the Census Bureau stuck to the basics and there won’t be any long or drawn-out questions on the form residents will receive.
“The Census form should take less than 10 minutes to fill out,” Poole said of the 10-question, check-to-answer form.
Forms will arrive in mailboxes in March 2010 and the deadline to mail them back is April 1 — if residents don’t want Census workers on their front doorsteps.
“A lot of people may be intimidated by someone knocking on the door and asking questions and it doesn’t have to be that way,” Poole said.
She is shooting for a 75 percent mail-back response rate, a 20 percent jump from Census 2000.
“The push now is to organize the effort, make sure we know where we need to reach to and get an action plan together,” Poole said.
“The main thing they [residents] can do is be aware that the census is coming and help promote it with all their contacts.”
Poole comes to county office after working 17 years at CenturyTel.
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