Census preparing for count

Published 4:43 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

A representative of the U.S. Census Bureau told the Bainbridge City Council Tuesday to get ready, the census is coming.

Jennifer Edwards, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau, specially asked for Mayor Mark Harrell to consider appointing a person to a “complete count committee” that would be charged with working with the Census Bureau, governmental entities and other community organizations to ensure that Decatur County’s population is accurately and completely counted.

Harrell requested the appointment be deferred until the next scheduled meeting on Sept. 2.

During the 2000 Census, Decatur County had a response rate of 58 percent, which is lower than the state and national averages. Georgia had a response rate of 65 percent and the national average was 67 percent.

Edwards said she would like to improve the county’s response rate by 5 percent.

The census, which is mandated in the U.S. Constitution to be conducted every 10 years, is used to apportion representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Georgia Senate and House, and the data are used for the distribution of more than $300 billion in federal funds, Edwards said.

For this census, which officially occurs on April 1, 2010, every household is to receive a 10-question form—the shortest questionnaire in history—that the bureau says will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

During the last census, some households received a short form and every one in six households received just the long form, which asked more detail demographic questions. This year, Edwards said every household is to receive the short form, and then some households will also receive a longer, separate form that asks the more detailed questions.

The Census Bureau plans to mail to every household a form, and if a person has a P.O. Box, the bureau is hoping to capture some of those missed by the mailed survey with a person-to-person count. The bureau is also hoping to accurately count people in group housing, such as prisons, health care facilities where numerous persons stay and other facilities.

Census workers have been working with local officials in validating addresses and securing new addresses due to new construction, Edwards said.

However, all the information in individual census forms are confidential, and none of the information can be released to other governmental agencies including law enforcement agencies and the IRS.

Other business

The city council conducted the following other business:

 The Council recognized Bainbridge Public Safety Officer Beau Harrell for rescuing an elderly woman from her burning home on the morning of July 24;

 Unanimously approved an irrevocable standby letter of credit in the amount of $20,000 from First Port City Bank;

 Unanimously passed, following a public hearing in which no one spoke, the city’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, No. 612. According to Hobby, the ordinance is periodically updated with no changes in the substance of the bill, but there were some changes in the language. The ordinance is required of local governments in order for homeowners within that municipality to obtain flood insurance, which is a federal program;

 Unanimously passed, following a public hearing in which no one spoke, to accept a memorandum of understanding that the city will receive $17,991 from a federal stimulus plan grant program to reimburse the city for overtime incurred by Public Safety Officers. Hobby told the council that Decatur County Sheriff’s Office is eligible for the same program, but its reimbursement would be $300,175;

 Unanimously passed the 21 surplus items to be auctioned on govbids.com, a government auction site. Hobby said the items need to be sold prior to the beginning of the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The on-line auction works better for the city, Hobby said, because there is less city time involved and generally the city receives more money from the auction.

 Heard from Scott Forsyth of Forsyth Insurance on the city employee’s health insurance plan. The cost per paycheck, per city employee will go up from the current $18.63 for single coverage to $58. For family coverage, the cost will go from the current $105.57 to $226 for the option with a $500 deductible, Forsyth said. A plan that had a $250 deductible is being eliminated, and one with a $3,000 deductible is being added, leaving the options at $500, $750 and $3,000 deductible plans available.

Bills and bids

The council unanimously passed the following bills and bids:

Bills

 Georgia Municipal Association, Atlanta, Ga., for workers compensation, $4,309.61.

Bids

 Blankenship Contracting Inc. of Dothan, Ala., for material, labor and equipment cost for the repair of the Russ Street lift station, $21,671.52.