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County residents slow returning census forms

— So far, 44 percent of Routt County residents have mailed back their census forms, trailing the state average of 61 percent. Today is the last day to mail the forms and census officials are concerned, but not panicking.

The end of the mailing period starts the beginning of census-takers going door-to-door to fill out the forms on the spot, said Doug Wayland, media spokesman for the census bureau in Denver.

“We’ve already started that operation, especially in mountain areas, because of seasonal employment,” he said.



Considering that an estimated $185 billion in government funding is dispersed across the nation according to census data, it’s important to to get an accurate population count so that every area gets its fair share, Wayland said.

People who haven’t mailed completed forms for their households can expect to hear a census worker knocking between now and May 2.



By using door-to-door census-takers, officials hope to get an accurate count of the county.

The low mail-back rate is typical in resort areas because of seasonal residents, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said. Still, she is unsettled by the 44 percent return rate.

“I’m very concerned that there will be an undercount,” she said.

An undercount could impact education and health care services that receive funding based on the population figures indicated by the census, DuBord said.

“Resort communities run a great risk,” she said. “We need to encourage people who live here to fill out the form.”

She explained that residents in resort towns face lower wages, less job security and expensive housing costs.

Anyone living in Steamboat right now should fill out a form, DuBord added.

She suspects that part of the problem with the low mail-back rate is the long census form that some residents are receiving.

The long form has 53 questions, while the short form has seven questions. One out of every six Coloradans should have received the long form. In rural areas, one in two people may have gotten the long version because the distribution of the forms wasn’t area-specific.

“I know some people who get the long form and say it has some questions that are inappropriate,” said DuBord.

For at least one of the questions, Jim White, a government partnership specialist, believes the public criticism isn’t justified:

“The income question has been on the form for 60 years,” he said.

However inappropriate respondents may feel the questions are, the information is needed to collect an accurate demographic picture of communities, he said.

By law, all the questions on the forms need an accurate answer, White said.

The projected population of Routt County is 18,527, according to the Colorado Demographer’s Office.

The county’s last population estimate from the office was 17,713 in 1998, Wayland said.

“That’s basically so we can get an idea of what kind of gross you have up there,” he said. “But the key is to get a good census count because of the federal funding.”

Anyone who has not received a form should call 1-888-325-7733 or contact Wendy DuBord at 879-2060.

— To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net


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