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Archive for Sunday, April 1, 1990

T YET BE COUNTED

April 1, 1990

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Today is Census Day 1990, the once-in-a-decade date for Americans to be sure they've filled in their census forms and sent them back to the federal government for its constitutionally mandated national headcount.

But not all who are willing can be good citizens.

In Lawrence, thousands of Kansas University students living in residence halls, scholarship halls, sororities or fraternities can't fill out their census forms and have them postmarked today.

Lawrence developer Bob Billings can't fill out or send his census form in today, nor can city planner Diane Mullens, local attorney Roger Brown or housewife Nancy Bracciano.

They, and possibly hundreds of other Lawrence residents, hadn't received their census forms as of Friday.

That isn't a worrisome problem to the Census Bureau's Topeka district manager, Bob Hamilton. And he says that people who haven't received their forms shouldn't worry either at least not just yet.

EVEN THOUGH today was the "deadline'' for getting the census forms back in the mail, Hamilton said he knows there are a number of addresses throughout his district and across the country that still haven't received the census forms.

Residents of group housing quarters, such as residence halls or fraternity houses, won't even begin receiving forms until Monday, and counts at those places will occur over a 2 -week period, he said.

Hamilton also said the Census Bureau hasn't forgotten people like Billings, Brown and Mrs. Bracciano, who live in new residential subdivisions. The reason they haven't received their forms, Hamilton suspects, is that those new addresses were not collected in time to make it on the bureau's master mailing list. Their addresses likely have been put on a list for a supplemental mailing of census forms, he said in an interview Friday.

AS LATE as February, the bureau sent out census workers to look for new residential developments that weren't on the master address list, which was made up from a number of sources, including postal service address lists, city planning department lists and various private mailing lists.

In the case of Mullens, who lives in a townhouse in Meadowbrook, Hamilton says he's not quite sure what the holdup is. But he's certain she'll be receiving either a form or a visit from a census-taker.

Mullens today said she got a reminder from the Census Bureau telling her there was still time send in the form that she still hadn't received.

The Census Bureau has been through this before, and for this year's census it has installed a toll-free phone number for people to call to request census forms: 1-800-999-1990. Hamilton, however, suggests waiting just a bit longer before calling.

"It's a little early for people to be concerned," Hamilton said. "If they haven't received their forms by the fourth or fifth (of April), then I'd encourage them to give us a call. But we are taking every step to ensure we're reaching every address and everyone is being counted."

HAMILTON said his district, which covers 26 Kansas counties, includes more than 85 percent of the state's college student population. He said his staff is ready for the count of residents in group quarters.

At Kansas University, officials have worked closely with the census bureau to ensure that students in KU residence halls and scholarship halls will be counted.

The headcount of university students has long been point of controversy. This year, most KU and Haskell students are expected to be counted as local residents because the census rule is that students identify their place of residence as the place they are living on April 1.

But it's still not an easy task to get a form in the hands of everyone. Deb Stafford, assistant director for residence life at KU, said she's worked for several months with Dan Anderson, census bureau field representative for the Lawrence area.

KU has provided a roster of residence hall and scholarship hall residents to the census bureau. From that list, census workers will address forms to each of the residents. Those forms will be hand-delivered to managers of the group residences, who then will distribute them to each resident. The census bureau then will pick up the forms.

"IT SEEMS to be set out where it will run fairly smoothly," Stafford said. "I think we've planned it well."

Census forms also will be hand-delivered to KU fraternity and sorority houses, Hamilton said.

For all of the planning that has gone into the census, Hamilton said he knows there will be a number of people who don't return their forms. The census bureau has several programs primed to be put in operation to cull that information.

"If we mail a questionnaire to an address and we do not get a questionnaire back, we will know it," Hamilton said. "For every one we don't get a return, we'll be sending people into the field or calling them up on the telephone. We have an elaborate system of checks and balances to be sure we get everyone counted."

Those trips into the field, though, are expensive. The Census Bureau estimates each visit in the field costs about $25, compared with the $1 it figures it costs to process a form that is returned by mail. So, Hamilton and others, such as the Lawrence Complete Count Committee, are urging people to return the forms by mail.

THE FIELD WORKERS, or enumerators in census lingo, will be out from late April through May, Hamilton said. And, he promises they will get the necessary information.

"We'll make every effort to contact a household to find out who and how many live there," he said. "If we don't get the information the first time, we'll come back. We have to; it's our job."

What kind of local count can be expected? David Guntert, a city-county planner who has been working closely with the Lawrence Complete Count Committee, said he's estimating a Lawrence population of about 65,000 and a Douglas County population of about 80,000.

In the meantime, Hamilton encourages anyone who has received the form to be sure it's been filled out and mailed in on this Census Day. The Topeka district office already is receiving thousands of completed forms daily, about 170,000 through Friday, Hamilton said. As long as those forms continue to come in and the census bureau's plan continues to be in place, Hamilton said he doesn't have reason to worry about an incomplete count.

"We really haven't had any serious problems," he said. "We've answered a lot of questions, but there's nothing we've had so far that has caused us any serious concerns in our district in any way."

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