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Being counted: Commissioners encourage census participation

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James F. Rhodes

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The 2020 U.S. Census is going online and there is more need than ever to educate the community about the importance in participating in the decennial count of the nation’s population.

During the Pitt County Board of Commissioners’ Monday meeting, the commissioners directed Planning Director James Rhodes to send letters to local organizations requesting participation in a 2020 Complete Count Committee that will work to encourage local participation in the 2020 Census.

The committee is tasked with developing educational events and other activities to encourage people to participate in the census, which will take place April 1, 2020.

“We want to make sure everyone in Pitt County is counted,” Rhodes said. “It’s vital to us and what type of grants and other things we may receive.” He credits the 2010 committee’s efforts with increasing Pitt County’s participation from 65 percent in 2000 to 74 percent in 2010

“This time it’s going to be handled right much differently,” Rhodes said. “Most of the census and your form will be done online. There is a whole promotional activity being done on that.”

Bernadette Richards, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census regional office in Atlanta, said that more than $675 billion is distributed yearly to state and local governments using census numbers. North Carolina likely will gain a 14th Congressional seat but it will be dependent on the 2020 outcome.

The census bureau is tasked with ensuring every person in the United States is counted one time and they are counted in the right place, Richards said. If college students are living in a dorm or in student housing on April 1, they are counted living at that address, not their parent’s home, she said.

A postcard will be mailed to each household that contains a barcode and instructions for filling out the online census form.

Individuals who do not have internet service or who are not comfortable filling out the online form can request a paper form, Richards said.

Enumerators will go to an address three times if the resident hasn’t filled out the online form or requested a paper copy. The first set of postcards will be mailed in March, she said.

County committees are being tasked with focusing efforts on ensuring groups that were under counted in the 2010 census are recorded in 2020, Richards said. Among these groups were veterans, people with disabilities, people living in rural communities, renters,children under the age of 5 and people with limited English language skills.

The census bureau will provide manpower and materials to help with education activities but it doesn’t provide financial resources, Richards said.

“That’s what we need most,” Commissioner Mark Perkins Williams, said. Richards said there are many no-cost education methods counties can employ, such as posted materials on their social media sites and including information in tax bills or other mass mailings.

Having clergy and other members of the faith-based community on the committee is important because people trust them, she said.

“I am glad to hear you are going to have boots on the ground because if it’s all online you are definitely going to miss people,” Commissioner Ann Floyd Huggins said.

Fire service district adjustments

The commissioners directed Pitt County Emergency Management to prepare the necessary report to change the fire service district lines of Black Jack, Ayden and Eastern Pines fire departments.

The changes stem from a request made by residents of Macon Crossing subdivision, located outside Ayden, to be moved out of the Eastern Pines district to the Ayden district. The change would help residents in the neighborhood lower their homeowners’ insurance rates because Ayden had opened a substation less than four miles from the area. Insurance companies reduce rates of rural homeowners who live within 5 miles of a fire station.

Since the request was made in April 2018, the fire chiefs of the adjoining districts have worked on redrawing the lines, noting that homeowners in surrounding areas would benefit from the adjustment.

Along with establishing boundaries for the department’s service area, the districts also define the taxing area for each department.

Jim McArthur, interim emergency management director, said the leaders in each district are satisfied with the changes.

Once the report is submitted to the Board of Commissioners a public hearing will be held on the proposal. The commissioners will then decide if a change is needed.

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